Thousands March in Island Demo
Canvey News and Benfleet Recorder May 1973
Thousands of Canvey and district residents took part in demonstrations against the latest refinery approved by Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, Secretary of State for the Environment.
On Sunday white crosses were planted and on Monday a housewives’ crusade went to London. At the first a vast throng assembled at the Council offices and marched to the refinery site. White crosses and coffins were carried, young children wore gas masks and some of the adults smog masks and black armbands. Members of Canvey, Benfleet and Rayleigh Councils were among the protestors. The orderly march, under police control, surged up Long Road, at times eight abreast, singing and chanting their opinions of Mr. Rippon. On arrival at the field white crosses were planted and coffins were laid on the grass. A musician sounded The Last Post.
At one stage during the march oil tankers going to a local depot passed and were met with a storm of boos. Before the vast throng dispersed Mr. Bryn Jones, labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South East Essex, said that no politician in the country could ignore the demonstration. The demonstration, which was his idea, had taken place because “we are afraid that the Government is going to turn Canvey into a graveyard”.
Although Mr. Rippon had made the decision in the national interests he (Mr. Jones) had been told by leaders in the industry that it was not in the national interests to build small refineries but instead they should be concentrated into four or five large ones. Mr. Jones said that Canvey was winning the battle which was a national issue. It was “people power-people care. Keep pressing, you will win”.
On Monday it was Canvey housewives’ turn when they went by coach to London. They were met at Westminster by Sir Bernard Braine, Conservative MP. for South East Essex. They should also have seen Mr. Anthony Crosland, Labour ‘shadow’ spokesman for the environment, but he was unable to be present. Sir Bernard had them ushered into Westminster Hall and he, Mr. Jones and Councillor Mrs. Dot. Shaw (who had organised the rally) went to the Department of the Environment, after Sir Bernard had made it quite clear that he was in full sympathy with the deputation’s views. At the Department they met the Minister’s Personal Private Secretary.
Sir Bernard asked him to convey to Mr. Rippon the anger of the people of Canvey against a bad decision. He said that he had repeatedly warned successive Governments against too great a concentration of refineries in the Thames. Sir Bernard made two demands — that the Secretary of State consider rescinding his planning decision and asked that Mr. Rippon receive a deputation from the local authority led by himself.
These requests are to be conveyed to Mr. Rippon. Sir Bernard then reported back to the deputation and said that he admired their stand very much indeed. He said that he had every sympathy with the people of Canvey in the matter.
A letter was handed in at No. 10 Downing Street asking Prime Minister Ted Heath to reverse Mr. Rippon’s decision and renew faith “in the rights of the people”. It was “a plea from the frightened people” implacably opposed to the refinery.
Were you on the march in 1973, are you in the pictures? Please comment below.