Be First to build hundreds more council homes

Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company, Be First, will build even more council homes in the borough over the next five years than previously projected.

The extra homes, detailed in its 2019 business plan, will mean Be First will build 3,088 council homes by 2024 – 880 more than the original target set by the council when the company was established in 2017. Around three quarters of them will be affordable.

Iain Ferguson, Be First’s Commercial Director, said: “We’re accelerating a number of projects to build nearly nine hundred more homes for the council than originally projected.  It’s ambitious but entirely achievable.”

Several big schemes will start this year and will deliver 1,233 new homes, including new council owned homes at Gascoigne East, and the former Sebastian Court and Crown House sites.

Iain said: “We expect to deliver a cash surplus to the council at the end of this year, and we are on track to deliver £49 million towards council services over the next five years, which will help pay for essential services the Government no longer funds.”

The plan also sets out how Be First will encourage the private sector to deliver 6,800 new homes over the next five years, on top of the new 3,088 Be First-built homes.

Be First will require all developers to ensure at least 25 per cent of their workforce on their schemes are local people and that private developers deliver as much affordable housing as possible.

Iain said: “Be First is wholly owned by the council and exists to build homes for the Council at speed and to encourage the private sector to improve their delivery as well.

“Any surplus we make goes back to the council. So we are the ultimate social enterprise which makes this business plan great news for the people of Barking and Dagenham.”


Champions of change take to the streets

Over 500 east London school pupils took to the streets to march against car use near their junior school today.

The protest by children from Manor Junior School in Barking is part of Living Streets’ national campaign, Walk to School Week.

The pupils joined the demonstration to encourage less cars around the school to combat air pollution and childhood obesity. Barking and Dagenham has some of the highest levels of childhood obesity in London.

Clare D’Netto, Headteacher at Manor Junior School said: “This protest sends out a powerful message that cars choke our streets and pollute our air.  If we can encourage more walking to school, we can show our children that small steps can change their lives.”

Ben Tunnicliffe, Eco School coordinator, said: “We have consulted with our school community and found that the vast majority of pupils at Manor Junior School live within a mile of the school, yet nearly half are driven to our school gates. The student-led Eco School Council decided that this needs to change.”

The school has been working closely with Barking and Dagenham Council and Be First, the council’s pioneering regeneration company, to encourage cycling and walking to school and reduce congestion.

Councillor Evelyn Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment and School Improvement said: “It is important for our young people to be as active as possible and walking to school is an easy win for us all.”

Nick Davies, Transport Manager for Be First said: “It’s often said children are the champions of change so today’s march by Manor Junior sent a powerful message across London that it’s cool to walk to school.”

We’re putting our heart into building homes and communities

A stylish terrace of ‘east end’ style council homes has been delivered by Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering development company.  

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Cllr Darren Rodwell and Iain Ferguson, Commercial Director of Be First, visited the development to see how the tenants of Tarling Close, Dagenham, were settling in.  

Margaret Mitchell, who moved to Tarling Close from her four-bedroom house in Thames View Estate, said: “I love my new home, it’s roomy and gives in a lot of light. It’s not too small or large for me. It’s just right.” 

The close was built in the same style as Burbridge Close, which has been shortlisted for a RIBA’s London Award and is just yards away.  The scalloped frontages form an attractive, traffic free pathway which encourages communal interaction and increases security.  

Mrs Mitchell’s move to Tarling Close enabled a family which was on the council waiting list to move into her old house in Thames View Estate. 

Cllr Darren Rodwell: “Tarling Close is another excellent example of the superb council housing we’re now building in the borough. These east end style homes are built to foster neighbourliness, which is at the heart of what we’re trying to achieve in the borough. Plus, we’re freeing up family-sized homes for people on the waiting list.”  

Iain Ferguson, Be First’s Commercial Director, said: “Tarling Close brings the total number of homes we have completed since Be First was created to just over 250, and we’re gearing up to deliver 2,500 more in the next few years.   

“Both developments are an excellent example of what we’re trying to achieve. We’re not just building affordable homes but communities too.”  

Notes for editors: 

Tarling Close consists of eight homes – six are one bed, single storey houses and two, two bed houses.