Landmark building nears completion

An east London development which is a key part of the regeneration of Barking town centre has reached a major milestone this week.

The 20-storey tower in Linton Road – currently known as Crown House – has reached its full height and is set to be finished in the Spring of 2022.

It will provide 169 below affordable homes in the heart of Barking for local people.

Speaking at a topping out ceremony, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell, said reaching the milestone was a major step forward in the council’s bid to create a new, vibrant town centre.

Cllr Rodwell said: “It’s great to see this development really taking off. It will provide much needed homes for aspirational working people in the heart Barking.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First the Councils development organisation, said: “This new development will provide top quality rented homes for local people in the centre of what is fast becoming one of the most exciting places to live in east London.”

Kim Bromley-Derry, Executive Director at McLaren Group, builders of the new development, said: “COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge that none have us have ever experienced before, particularly in conjunction with delivering such an important building for BeFirst and Barking and Dagenham Council in the heart of Barking.

“To reach the top here, we have had to dig deep and use incredible team spirit and innovative thinking to re-sequence the way we work in such a logistically challenging location. But we’ve made it. The building is now structurally complete, and we are now heading full steam ahead towards being completely weathertight with the interior fit-out also commencing as we speak.

“Another really important factor here has been how we’ve successfully integrated local businesses into the project. My team, assisted by the Barking and Dagenham job shop and our local supply chain have already met our project targets for locally employed people and local resident trainee opportunities. With almost one year still to go to handover, I am confident that we will now build upon this achievement and continue to bring more employment opportunities to the people in the local community.”

In addition to the 20-storey tower, the completed development will feature two shoulder blocks of nine and ten storeys – there will be 80 one-bedroom, 71 two-bedroom and 18 three-bedroom flats. A third of the homes will be shared ownership while the remaining will be below market rent.

History buffs take to the streets!

An interactive heritage trail is being launched this week on the streets of Barking.

The digital trail, which can be accessed on a smart phone using the pioneering Street Tag app, uses augmented reality technology to encourage people to tour the streets of Barking to discover its rich history and tell their own stories.

The app allows users to see images from the local archives, hear stories and read about Barking’s past at key sites such as the Abbey ruins, the Curfew Tower and Town Quay. Crucially, participants can also add their own photos, reminiscences and even poems, and the app rewards participants who walk and share the most.

The Barking Heritage Trail is the first stage of an ambitious new collaborative project – the Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail – which will be extended across the borough over the course of the year. The heritage element uses content developed by Barking’s heritage volunteers, with backing from Valence House archives, Be First and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Later stages will feature a host of other creative input, such as poetry, illustration, photography, podcasts and film reflecting the creative talent of the borough.

Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said: “You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this exciting new heritage trail. The Street Tag app is really simple to use, so whether you’re on your way to work or just out walking the dog, you can find out more about Barking’s past and share your own stories at the same time!”

Simone Panayi, Be First’s Heritage Engagement Manager, said: “Our heritage volunteers worked with the local archives to research Barking’s key historical monuments, and then teamed up with Street Tag inventor, Seun Oshinaike, to bring their stories to life and available to all.

“Street Tag is fun to use and encourages people to walk and exercise more, providing information about interesting places to visit and engage, and offering points for getting involved”.

Lena Smith of Pen to Print, added: “The Barking Heritage Trail is the first element of the Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail that we plan to launch during this year. Focusing on the Becontree Estate in 2021, we’re asking local people to start sending us their stories, fact or fiction, about anywhere in Barking and Dagenham and in almost any format to add to the trails now. Details of how to do this are on our website.”

More information, including how to download the Street Tag app, is available here.

Big hearted pocket park

An east London pocket park co-designed by local residents is set to open in Barking next month.

The pop-up Phoenix Park will open on 1 June for residents of the Gascoigne neighbourhood which is currently being redeveloped.

The new pocket park is a result of a grassroots project involving Gascoigne Residents’ Forum, Be First, engagement specialist Urban Symbiotics, landscape architects Fabrik, and construction firm Wates Residential.

It has also been chosen to be part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell, said: “I understand Phoenix Park in Dublin is one of Europe’s largest. Well, Barking’s Phoenix Park maybe one of Europe’s smallest but it’s big on heart thanks to its fantastic community involvement.”

Peter Murray, Be First board member and New London Architecture curator said: “BeFirst is delivering lots of new homes for the borough but is also focusing on great spaces between the buildings that people can enjoy. This is a fantastic inclusive project which has produced a great pocket park at the heart of a pioneering redevelopment of the Gascoigne neighbourhood.”

Sadia Ur-Rehman, Community Engagement Coordinator at Be First said: “Residents were at the core of this collaborative creation. The park will be a great place for the community to enjoy this Summer.”

Ayesha Riaz of the Gascoigne Residents’ Forum said: “It was fabulous to work on the pocket park and especially now we’re coming out of lockdown as I met so many people from the forum I hadn’t met before. This is what this park is all about – bringing people together.”

Adrian Fennessy, Operations Director for Wates Residential said: “To us, construction is more than just building, it’s also a chance for us to positively impact the communities where we operate. As a contractor of Be First, it’s a pleasure for the Wates Residential team to work in collaboration with all the key partners and most importantly the Gascoigne Residents Forum to create this space, it has been an experience that Wates Residential and its supply chain have been proud to be part of.

“This park demonstrates great social value, right from the co-design, the hours that residents have volunteered and the donations of time and materials from the Wates supply chain, for example the storage unit, the gym tyres and much more.”

The park is designed around four themes identified by local residents; exercise, play, growing and contemplation. These are brought together at the heart through a stage, which can be used for gatherings, events, communal dining, games and more.

The park includes: a natural play area, a gym corner, a seating and stage area for a space to relax in, a garden area, a large feasting table and a growing plot.

As part of the park launch, there will also be an exciting programme of events including:
• An open exhibition with display boards available throughout all of June.
• An online panel discussion as part of the London Festival of Architecture, on 9 June from 6 to 7.30pm involving residents, Be First, Fabrik, Urban Symbiotics and Wates Residential.
• Phoenix Park Launch Festival on Saturday 26 June, 12 – 4pm – Gascoigne residents are invited to celebrate the new pop-up pocket park with an afternoon of family friendly fun for everyone.

See here to book or find out more.

Massive improvement in quality of life, say new tenants

Tenants of new council flats met with Councillor Cameron Geddes this week to show off their homes in Sugden Way in Barking.

Cllr Geddes, Cabinet member for Social Housing and Regeneration, said: “It’s great to meet Pam and Dan and see them settle into their new homes.

“I am very impressed with the quality of the homes and, because they were largely built offsite, we were able to house tenants such as Pam and Dan more quickly than we would have done if we used traditional build methods.”

Pam and her partner Dan and their two young boys, moved into their new three-bedroom home in the Spring from a two-bedroom flat in Barking.

Pam and Dan said: “We love our new home. Our old home was too small for us and the space we have now is great for us and our two boys. Our home is really well made. Moving here is a massive improvement in our quality of life.”

The 13 homes were built by Rollalong using modular technology from their factory in Dorset. They were delivered to the Barking site and finished under the management of Be First.

The homes include a one-bedroom flat, nine two-bedroom flats and three, three-bedroom flats.

Sam Parry, Construction Manager at Be First said: “We’re very pleased to see the tenants enjoying their new council home. The use of modular technology is proving crucial in our mission to build thousands of top-quality homes for local people at rents they can afford.”

Council consults on planning power to prevent poor quality development

Barking and Dagenham Council is inviting views on its proposal to seek extra planning powers to prevent poor quality development.

The new powers would give local residents and Council planners the right to scrutinise developers’ plans for additional floors on existing buildings in residential parts of the borough.

The Council hopes that the change to what are known as ‘permitted development rights’ will allow them to intervene when applicants seek to build low quality or unsightly additional storeys to existing buildings. It will also enable the Council to insist that the developer makes a contribution towards social infrastructure, such as schools or affordable housing.

The new powers are known as an Article 4 direction under the General Permitted Development Order. They would compel developers to use the standard planning route if they are considering this adding floors and allow planning staff, local residents and other stakeholders to consider the quality of any proposal in terms of design, infrastructure provision and affordable housing contributions.

Councillor Cameron Geddes, Barking and Dagenham Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Social Housing, said: “We’re determined to raise standards of development in the borough.

“We are therefore seeking these extra powers to make sure we don’t end up with any eyesores, and to insist developers make a contribution to the local community, from affordable housing to infrastructure improvements.”

The Council has posted formal notices and has invited the public to comment here.

The consultation ends on 21 June 2021 and, if it is positive, the council will publish a confirmation statement setting out its intention for the direction to come into force on 22 February 2022.

Barking’s heritage mural – the results are in!

Residents have given their verdict on the options for a heritage mural in the heart of Barking town centre.

Almost 170 people voted and substantially more than half favoured mural artist Jake Attewell’s striking design featured above.

Jake has vowed to honour the residents’ decision and will start work on the mural above McDonalds on the corner of Short Blue Place and East Street, Barking in early May 2021.

“I’m really pleased that so many voted and that the design was a crowd favourite,” he said, “I’m really looking forward to getting started. Feel free to come down and say hello to me and my team, and please follow our progress on Instagram!”

Jake says his design is a contemporary take on Barking’s heritage, much of it lost, but still valued by residents. His design features five main elements.

  • At the apex of the wall, there’s an illustration of early twentieth century East Street, including a tram, which Jake hopes to illuminate and animate when the mural is launched next September.
  • He has also incorporated the Bascule Bridge which carried the trams over the Roding to Beckton Gas Works, once a vital transport link for many local people employed there.
  • The Curfew Tower, which is the only remaining part of Barking’s once formidable Abbey.
  • The Wellington Windmill which until 1926 stood close to the London Road bridge between the River Roding and Back River
  • The River Roding flows through the design to the quayside, where fishing boats moored when it was the country’s busiest fishing port hosting the world’s largest fleet. It continues to be an attractive focal point for Barking today.

Jake was commissioned by Be First, the Council’s regeneration organisation, to paint the mural after a competition to design artwork for the heritage wall and the brief was developed using research by local Heritage Volunteers and a public survey which took place last summer.

The commission forms part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s programme of activities which will also include a heritage trail of installations by mosaic artist Tamara Fround which will stretch from Abbey Green to Short Blue Place, depicting other lost heritage, such as the Tudor Market Hall and Leet House, jute weavers and spinners, classic high street stores and more.

More information about our heritage progamme can be found here.

London’s Growth borough approves historic markets move east

Councillors approved plans to move historic City of London wholesale markets to Dagenham last night (22 March).

The news follows a string of new investments in Barking and Dagenham.  

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “This is yet more great news for the borough. The move will bring jobs as well as new training opportunities as part of our plans to establish a food school locally. Along with the plans we announced last week for a second film studio, confirming our status as London’s Hollywood, this confirms our commitment to securing the recovery in the local economy.

“I am particularly pleased with the intention to use the River Thames to move freight to and from the markets. Together with the Thames freeport, this will help reduce the capital’s carbon footprint at the same time as promoting green, sustainable jobs.”

Last night’s approval was subject to any direction from the Mayor of London and the completion of a S106 legal agreement.  The Heads of Terms of the S106 were set out in the report and provide huge benefits for the borough.

They include:

  • Improvement works to the Goresbrook Interchange as well as £2 million for improvements to the A13
  • £2.95 mil for improvements to local bus services
  • A specialist food school with two campuses in the borough – one at Dagenham Dock and another at Barking Town Centre.
  • £1.75m towards the development and construction of a Food Hub in Barking Town Centre as part of the Barking Town Centre Regeneration Strategy. The Food Hub will feature independent food and drink outlets and stalls with fresh produce straight from the markets. It will be part of a major drive to create a vibrant night-time economy in Barking
  • £1m towards a food activation programme, which will seek to support and grow the food industry in the borough and maximise employment and business opportunities.
  • £1mil towards employment support and training to enable residents to access jobs on the new markets site
  • £850,000 towards public realm enhancements at Dagenham Dock station.

Cllr Rodwell added: “The move of these iconic markets to our borough will bring in hundreds of millions to the local economy and more jobs and educational opportunities for local people including a new food school which will develop the master chefs of the future.”


Big stride forward in helping the homeless

The Council this week took a big stride forward in its strategy to improve housing for local homeless and vulnerable people, as tenants started to move into the first of three new temporary housing developments in the borough.

Councillor Sade Bright, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Aspiration, visited the first in Cook Road, Dagenham to meet young people moving into the 92 new homes developed by Be First, and built by Jerram Falkus.

Cllr Bright said: “These new flats will provide good quality temporary accommodation for local people who have roots in this borough but who find themselves homeless, whereas previously they were living in inadequate hostels or expensive temporary accommodation, sometimes far away from family, friends or support.

“Not only will these homes give them somewhere decent to stay while they find permanent housing, but the development will also save the council thousands of pounds each year which we can invest in better services.”

The 92 homes were built off site using top quality materials, delivered, assembled and finished at the site in Cook Road, Dagenham, in record time.

Overall, there are 24 one-bedroom flats, 36 two-bedroom flats and 32 three-bedroom homes.

Darren Cutts, Assistant Construction Director at Be First, said: “We’re really proud to play our part in helping to give local families who have been living in insecure accommodation a more stable future.”

The Cook Road development is part of a wider strategy which will deliver up to 200 new homes to house local homeless people and families.

It allows the council to offer accommodation to homeless families within the borough at the same time as reducing the cost of providing temporary accommodation which is currently £18million a year.

New homes for local homeless – built with bricks and mortar for hearts and minds

New homes providing emergency accommodation for local homeless people have been completed this week.

Councillor Sade Bright, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Aspiration, visited the new look Grays Court in Dagenham this week.

Cllr Bright said: “The pandemic has underlined just how important a stable home is and, at the same time, just how easy it is to lose your home, through no fault of your own.

“So, I’m pleased that the newly renovated Grays Court will provide top quality emergency accommodation for people that find themselves in homeless and in need of somewhere secure to stay while they get themselves back on their feet. It is a real asset for the whole community.”

The restoration of Grays Court gives new life to the old hospital building and now provides 59 temporary accommodation rooms, a new community space and a GP out of hours service.

The community space will provide space for:

•            a community food club and cooking school

•            family learning opportunities

•            education and training facilities

•            careers fairs and job clubs

The new Grays Court was developed by Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration organisation, and built by United Living.

Iain Ferguson, Commercial Director at Be First, said: “Be First is not just about bricks and mortar, we’re about hearts and minds too. The new Grays Court will be a real community asset which will benefit local people looking for a permanent home and those who want to grab new opportunities and learn new skills.”

Paul Fleming, Project Manager at United Living, said: “This was a fantastic project to be a part of. The United living team that has delivered this project, feel extremely proud to have been able to deliver this much needed, quality emergency accommodation for individuals and families in these troubled times. Knowing how hard the pandemic has hit many families, this building can be a lifeline for so many.”

Major investment and jobs boost for London’s Hollywood

Combined with Eastbrook Studios, Hackman Capital Partners’ second investment brings up to £350m into the borough and the potential for over 1,800 new jobs.

The global demand for content produced in the UK received welcome news about increased capacity when Barking and Dagenham Council announced this week that global media real estate giants Hackman Capital Partners (HCP) will be investing in another state-of-the-art studio in the east London borough.


Last year, HCP and Square Mile Capital announced plans to build Eastbrook Studios – the capital’s largest film and TV production centre – in Dagenham, placing the borough at the heart of the British film industry’s efforts to “build back better.” They have now agreed a 10 year-lease with Barking and Dagenham Council for two existing warehouses alongside the River Roding in Barking, which will be converted into studios.


This deal, combined with Eastbrook Studios, will bring up to £350m worth of investment into the borough, offering a total of 18 sound stages and the potential to deliver over 1,800 new jobs.  HCP also plans to invest heavily in training and educational programmes in the local area, bolstering Barking and Dagenham as a hub of talent for the UK’s creative industries and a source of exciting job opportunities for young people and those with high-demand skills who are searching for a career change.

Known as The Wharf, the ten-acre site will complement the larger Dagenham Eastbrook Studios complex and deliver six new sound stages with associated production offices and workshop space. The studios are expected to open before the main Eastbrook complex and will be available for filming as early as Autumn this year.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “This is fantastic news and is another sign of the huge confidence in our borough, London and the UK from HCP, who have already made a massive commitment to building Eastbrook Studios and are now expanding to The Wharf. “Their decision to invest in The Wharf is another boost for our borough and London, meaning more jobs and opportunities for local people. We will not only be able to say movies will be Made in Dagenham but in Barking too!”

Michael Hackman, CEO Hackman Capital Partners, said: “We are delighted to develop The Wharf and continue Barking and Dagenham’s transformation into a global media hub. We are proud to add to the history of this storied area and have the support of such innovative and impactful leaders like Council Leader Rodwell.”

Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone said: “Brilliant news for Barking and Dagenham and with a further commitment from US investor Hackman Capital Partners towards boosting the local economy, driving regeneration and showcasing the UK’s world-class film industry to the world. The Government is paving the way for an investment-led recovery through our Office for Investment, freeports and measures to ensure the UK is the best place to invest and grow a business.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First, which negotiated the agreement on behalf of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “This announcement is further proof that Barking and Dagenham is attracting modern, knowledge based and creative industries. The borough which was blighted by deindustrialisation in the late 20th century is becoming economically vibrant again.”

Eastbrook Studios in Dagenham, which will be the largest studio campus in London, will provide a major investment for the borough, the entertainment industry and the capital, contributing £35m per year to the local economy and catalysing more development into East London.

HCP is committed to delivering new training opportunities for the industry and are working closely with the Council and local education institutions including Barking and Dagenham College. The recently opened East London Institute of Technology (ELIoT) at the college, specialising in Film/TV production and construction is perfectly placed to help educate the next generation of film crew.

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “There could never be a better time to open new studio space in the capital. Despite COVID, London and the UK’s film and TV industry is flourishing. Industry recovery in the final quarter of 2020 generated £1.19 billion spend for film and high-end TV, the second highest three-month spend on record. The demand is there – and growing. We just need the studio space to match it, which is why today’s announcement of additional sound stages in east London by autumn is not only welcome, but extremely timely. Film and high-end TV can help drive London and the UK’s economic recovery, providing UK plc with billions of pounds, supporting hundreds and thousands of jobs and bringing regeneration and growth to areas like Barking and Dagenham.”

Jason Turton Assistant Principal at Barking and Dagenham College said: “We are extremely excited to be working with such forward-thinking employer partners. Within ELIoT we incorporate training, learning, research, innovation and enterprise that will deliver excellence in advanced and higher technical skills to meet the needs of local learners, employers and communities in East London that can support this revolutionary development. We are proud to be part of this new vision for the borough and are working closely together to ensure that we give local people opportunities that are hard to find in the film and creative industries.”