Barking & Dagenham set out its stall as London’s ‘biggest growth borough’ yesterday with plans to build 50,000 new homes and improved transport connections to the east London region.
Council leader Darren Rodwell, speaking at NLA’s On Location event in the borough’s Icehouse quarter, said that it had lifted its housebuilding target from 20,000 two years ago, with plans to create homes above a new tunnel for the A13. ‘It’s about opportunities, it’s about taking risk, it’s about changing perspectives’, said Rodwell. ’We will help where London needs to go. 50,000 homes, 20,000 jobs and a great place to live for artists – that’s Barking and Dagenham.’
Barking and Dagenham strategic director for growth and homes John East said that schemes such as Barking Riverside were key to the borough’s ambition to make it ‘East London’s cultural hub’ and have a ‘transformational effect’, without losing a sense of place. ‘Our ambition is Barcelona-on-Thames’, he said. ‘That’s what we’re aiming for and that’s what we can achieve’. The council has set up a new regeneration company to ‘make things happen’ and is working with TfL on transport initiatives including the A13 tunnel and a direct rail link to Stratford from Barking, as well as improvements to Barking station. ‘Our challenge is that in 20 years’ time we have created a great place to live’, he said.
Allies & Morrison director Louise Mansfield said that the developments in the borough will draw on her practice’s study on existing local character, with key attributes such as those at the pioneering Becontree Estate. The work also looks at areas ripe for intensification and at Barking and Dagenham’s success in reinterpreting housing typologies so far. ‘It’s a borough of neighbourhood centres, which is an incredibly sustainable form’, she said.
FutureCity founder and director Mark Davy said he felt that the Illuminated River competition and moves to push a series of creative zones in the Thames Estuary suggest the river is back in business. ‘We’ve now got liquid culture’, he said. It will also be a healthy place to live, with 10 Healthy New Town principles now established and embedded in Section 106s in the area, said Dr Fiona Wright, Co Lead, Barking Riverside London’s Healthy New Town.
Barking Riverside project director Matthew Carpen said his project was a little like ‘regeneration brain surgery’, with the main challenge to deliver a ‘place’ from a ‘blank canvas’. ‘You can’t just parachute it in’, he said. ‘It takes time.’ Homes - ‘the easy bit’ will include a district heat network and NVAC waste disposal. ‘It’s so refreshing to be working in a borough that is pro-growth.’ The scheme also represents an opportunity to investigate modern ways of working, added Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands director Alex Lifschutz. ‘It makes a difference between a residential dormitory and a residential community’, he said.
Other key projects in Barking and Dagenham’s transformation include 360 Barking and Vicarage Fields, both by Studio Egret West. Founding director David West said the competition-winning 360 Barking adjacent to Barking railway station was a series of four ‘tub’-shaped towers, connected with communal gardens. Meanwhile the more mixed use Vicarage Fields scheme will replace the area’s ‘introverted’, two-storey 1980s shopping centre with 855 homes, a hotel, three-form entry primary school, cinema and music venue. ‘It’s quite difficult not to be extraordinarily enthusiastic about a place that is so open-minded, and to good design,’ he said. ‘We were asked what is the ambition? Where is Barking going? We said: up, up, up. It’s going to be an extraordinary place. Let’s do nothing short of super-ambitious’.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly