With ambitious targets to meet, Be First, Barking and Dagenham Councilís newly established regeneration company, is rising to the challenges.
Noella Pio Kivlehan speaks to managing director Pat Hayes about the independent company’s objectives, what it will deliver and what happens next
Over the next 10 years, residents of Barking and Dagenham could find themselves living in Scandinavian-style homes, with high levels of sustainability, creating benefits for a burgeoning community.
This is an ambition of Pat Hayes', managing director of recently launched regeneration company, Be First.
Owned by the council, but independently run, Be First is dedicated to accelerating economic growth in the borough by delivering thousands of new homes, creating jobs and attracting inward investment.
But beneath these headline objectives, Hayes believes Be First's independence, willingness to think creatively and to take influence from the world outside the borough will mark it out.
Stockholm Royal Seaport, the largest urban development area in Sweden, with at least 12,000 new homes and 35,000 workplaces, is a model for sustainable urban development and innovative technologies and seen by Hayes as the ideal case study for how ambitions could be realised in the borough.
Hayes, who was appointed managing director of Be First after more than 10 years overseeing regeneration and housing with Ealing Council, says: "We have to emulate the approach in Scandinavia and the Netherlands: building good, quality communities, with housing that is genuinely affordable.
"Design is really important to us,” he adds. "In the UK, you tend to get uniformity, but we want to bring it to the front by mixing architects and builders on a single site. "It's about regeneration for people here now, not just people who may come in.
"It's about providing for new people and people who aren’t born yet. That's where the council and its agencies are being quite interventionist in buying and acquiring land and masterplanning developments and bringing them forward. So, I'm looking at this as very much a European model."
It was in November 2016, following an investigation by an independent Growth Commission into the prospects for the borough, which led to recommendations that the council should establish a borough-wide regeneration company.
Officially up and running in October 2017, Be First is commercially driven and has put ambitious targets in place for the next 20 years: 50,000 new homes; 20,000 new jobs, developing more than 400ha of land, with better infrastructure, as well as attracting investment, all within seven so-called "growth hubs".
And the council expects a return of £10 million a year by 2021 on its initial investment.
A £25 million grant for Barking and Dagenham Council will help it support new housebuilding over the next four years.
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