With a new look for BOLD in 2019, Kirsty MacAulay reflects on the borough's achievements since the magazine was first published in 2012 and speaks to the local authority’s chief executive, Chris Naylor, about the borough’s achievements in recent times and how the council will continue to focus on creating opportunities for residents
At the heart of regeneration is change; something Barking and Dagenham has seen a lot of. In the first 12 years of this century, the east London borough’s population went from more than 80% ‘White British’ to 49%, the Ford plant announced its closure, the BNP lost their seats on the council giving Labour control, work started on a series of regeneration projects including one of Europe’s largest housing developments and the first issue of BOLD magazine was published in 2012, detailing what the council was setting out to achieve.
Change happens here at pace, with a steady flow of regeneration schemes bringing shiny, colourful buildings alongside a host of new commercial initiatives and a council combining a streamlined service with a can do attitude.
As Chris Naylor, Barking and Dagenham Council’s chief executive, explains: “This place is changing in front of our eyes. We have tons of challenges, but we’ve got a huge amount of space to build new homes, a lot of industrial spaces 25 minutes from London, plus we’ve got a young, aspirational mix of people living here who want to better their lives. One way to capitalise on our opportunities was by accelerating the pace and scale of growth in a way that benefits as many local people as possible.”
In order to achieve that growth, the council created the regeneration company, Be First, in 2017. Key to its success is independence from the council, though regeneration, planning and capital delivery teams were transferred from the council to Be First. New staff were recruited too, many from the private sector, bringing with them an invaluable commercial insight. Be First has already had some major wins including securing developer, Pacifica Ventures, for the 8.9-ha film studio site, as well as investing in Vicarage Field Shopping Centre to accelerate growth and create a development framework to enable the delivery of affordable homes.
Barking and Dagenham’s regeneration programme has already provided a huge amount of housing. The borough’s biggest development, Barking Riverside, which will create 10,800 new homes by 2034, has delivered 700 units, plus a further 300 this year, as well as a community centre, four new schools which are up and running and an ecology centre opening this year. Work is also starting in 2019 on the London Overground train line extension into the site.
The 360 Barking project will provide 270 new homes (96 for shared ownership) this year across four towers in the town centre with a creative hub on the ground floor. Another town centre scheme, Weavers Quarter at the Gascoigne Estate, has delivered a school and 421 homes (221 for shared ownership) and is starting the second phase of the project this year.
Demonstrating to investors the scale of opportunity in the borough is something Barking and Dagenham has managed through initiatives such as setting up Be First and attending MIPIM, the global property conference in Cannes, France. The borough has 400ha of development land, however Naylor makes the point that developers need to know not just that you’re ‘open for business’ but willing and able too.
He explains: “You’ve got to put yourself out there and then back that up with delivery capacity and confidence in your own product – a considerable proportion of our development is funded by the council. You’ve got to be bold.”
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