GLA launches London Riverside OAPF

Thursday 26 February 2015

London Riverside could provide one of the best answers yet to the English capital’s deepening housing crisis, offering enough land and opportunities to cater for family housing and jobs for its steep population growth.

That was one of the key points to emerge at a NLA event yesterday at which Sir Edward Lister, chief of staff and deputy mayor, policy and planning at the GLA launched an Opportunity Area Planning Framework consultation draft for London Riverside.

Lister said that the suite of OAPFs were all intended to bring a delivery mechanism for a London total of 300,000 new homes and 568,000 jobs in areas which had problems – be that contaminated sites, connectivity, or land holdings. ‘Our job is to unlock those things’, he said, ‘and that is what this is about – to create certainty for you.’

The 3000ha Riverside area covers parts of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Newham, with a goal of providing some 26,500 new homes and 16,000 jobs including within potential Housing Zone areas in Barking Town Centre, Beam Park and Rainham, alongside improved transport infrastructure.

Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property, GLA said the scale of development already happening in the area was considerable, with areas like Barking Riverside equivalent to Windsor – and Monaco – representing ‘genuinely a new garden suburb’. The creation of a green boulevard was critically important to making a place, he added, revealing that the GLA is to market a 29ha site at Beam Park in May as an opportunity to provide 2000 homes connected by a new overland railway station. But the time was also right to think about how we talk and promote this part of the capital, Blakeway said. ‘It’s an unbelievably vibrant place’, he said.

LDS director Alex Lifschutz showed how his practice’s masterplan for the area drew on its similar ingredients to Monaco in being south facing and on the river. But unlike towns such as Brighton, the architects seek to avoid ‘snookering themselves’ through cutting off residents from the seafront by creating a road in between, instead creating boulevards and esplanades further inland. ‘Let’s not just think of this as ‘Oh, it’s Barking’, said Lifschutz. ‘It can be fantastic and it must be fantastic.’

While TfL policy manager Julia Bray said a London overground extension was key to unlocking development in the area, there were also barriers to movement being addressed in order to change perceptions. And Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council Darren Rodwell identified one of these as the A13, which he believes is costing London billions and should be run underground, while east London’s paucity of river crossings is another cause for concern.

The conference also heard from speakers including SEGRO business unit director of Greater London Alan Holland, who said his customers were challenging the firm to get more involved in east London, with London Riverside potentially being a ‘Park Royal of the east’. Finally, after Urban Splash’s Jonathan Falkingham showed his plans to create innovative low-cost housing, Cheryl Coppel, chief executive of LB Havering stressed the need to ensure homes built are affordable for local people and Londoners in the Riverside opportunity area. ‘It is certainly a place whose time has come’, she said.

David Taylor

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