Essex has its very own island – and it’s claimed a new-found independence

For many people there are parts of the UK that may as well be islands as they have their own unique identity. But one little island in Essex is hoping to gain indepndence from the mainland.

Canvey Island in Essex is synonymous with seaside fun for Londoners seeking to get a break not too far away from the capital.

It has a network of creeks and its location in the Thames estuary means it is separate from the rest of the county.

And a groundswell of support from locals for Canvey Island’s independence has finally paid off – with the independent movement taking over the mainland council.

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It’s not quite of Brexit proportions – given its more modest population of almost 40,000.

But two decades ago, a sole councillor set about battling to take over powers from the mainland Castle Point District Council.

And in May 2022, the Canvey Island Independent Party finally achieved it, wrestling enough seats from the Conservatives to run the mainland council in an independent coalition with the People’s Independent Party.

Canvey Island Independent Party Councillor Dave Blackwell, who is now leader of Castle Point Council – started the push for independence back in 2004.

Dave, 76, lives in the Newlands area of Canvey with his wife Sylvia, 67. They have four children six grandchildren

He said: “I love Canvey and I love its people and doing what I can to improve the area. With a couple of friends we thought that we would do something different from the mainstream parties.

“When I sit back and look at it we have achieved quite a lot – including fighting off the main political parties such as UKIP. The party has stayed solid.”

Although, he says, Canvey has pockets of deprivation, that in the main the area faces the same challenges as elsewhere in the country.

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He said some residents need to use foodbanks and there are a few issues with antisocial behaviour.

But on the flip side he points to houses worth £400,000 along the coastline.

Dave said: “If you want to call us deprived that’s fine – I’ll take the money and spend it!

The independence push ended up in headlines around the world, says Dave and things got “carried away”.

When in reality, rather than wanting to set up their own country, they were pushing for the town council on Canvey Island to have more devolved powers from the mainland council.

He said: “They were saying we wanted to break away from Britain!

“It got out of hand but it did put us on the map.”

More than anything though Dave just genuinely loves where he lives.

He said: “There is just something about Canvey. It’s an amazing community and everyone sticks together.”

Dave reveals that a high proportion of Canvey Island residents commute – and that road connections could be better.

But, he says, the rail links are good and it takes around a 40 minute trip into central London.

He added: “I love it.

“I have lived here all of my life.

“I love the people, I love the area, the seafront, the beach – everything about it.”

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