Critical friends appointed to oversee top quality design in Barking and Dagenham

A team of ‘critical friends’ made up of 25 architects, environmental experts and town planners has been appointed by Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering regeneration company, to act as design champions for the borough.

Their appointment to the Barking and Dagenham Quality Review Panel comes as the borough emerges as one of London’s top growth spots, with an estimated 50,000 new homes expected to be delivered in the next 20 years.

The Quality Review Panel will act independently to planners and developers, ensuring the highest possible standards of design are observed across the borough’s major new developments and emerging masterplans.

Caroline Harper, Chief Planner at Be First, said: “We’re determined to deliver the highest possible standards of design in every new development and, at the same time, we want to retain and promote the distinctiveness and architectural character of the borough.

“So, I am delighted to announce the appointment of this talented and vastly experienced group of experts who will help us make sure development works for local residents.”

The panel members are responsible for ensuring new developments reflect and build upon existing physical, social and cultural assets especially the borough’s rich and diverse architectural heritage.

Neil Deely, the newly appointed chair of the Panel, said: “I’m really excited to have been invited to take on this important role.  It couldn’t be a more exciting time to work in Barking and Dagenham as their ambition as a borough is awe-inspiring.”

“I’m fully committed to making sure that as a panel, we deliver top quality, sustainable developments that encourage thriving communities.”

Deborah Denner, Director of Frame Projects, who were commissioned to select and support the panel, said: “The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has many award-winning developments that have been completed in recent years. From the town centre to the Thames riverside, there are plenty of examples of successful regeneration projects, creating a high quality of life for local people.

“These schemes help set a high bar for development in the area, and the panel’s role is to help ensure new proposals meet a similarly high standard.”

The first meeting of the Quality Review Panel on 27 July included a visit to the Gascoigne estate, where a selection of panel members began the process of examining the latest plans for the western side of the estate.


Help us write a new Westside story

Local residents are being urged to help shape the next phase of development of the Gascoigne estate, Barking.

The council’s regeneration company, Be First, is holding a consultation event next week to allow local people to give feedback on the latest plans for the western side of the estate.  The exhibition sets out the designs for more than 200 new homes, of which over 40 per cent will be affordable, together with attractive public spaces and a sustainable energy system.  And, architects and staff from Be First will be on hand to explain, answer questions and collect the views of the public.

Mark Stallard, project manager for Be First, explains: “We believe that our plan for the next chapter of development will provide top quality new homes – and more of them – at Gascoigne West.   But the acid test is what local residents think of them.  We need local people to get involved as much as possible before we finalise our plans.”

The proposals will be on display at the Boathouse Creative Studios, 62 Abbey Road, Barking IG11 7BT on Thursday 27 June from 3pm to 8pm and Friday 28 June from 2pm to 5pm.

It will also be possible to see the plans online at yourcall.befirst/building-a-better-Gascoigne from 27 June.

Following the consultation a detailed planning application will be submitted in the summer.

We will save last vestiges of London Bridge

Some of the last remnants of the 1831 London Bridge will be protected and restored as part of £1.8million heritage project by Be First, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The last pieces of the old bridge, which was sold to an American developer in 1967 and relocated to Arizona, will be restored by Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering regeneration company, Be First, as part of a restoration project around Barking Abbey.

The granite blocks are currently part of a sculpture near the Grade II listed Curfew Tower by the ruins of Barking Abbey. They were brought to the borough in 2006 and turned into a sculpture by Joost Van Santen.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council said: “We will be sprucing up the area around the Curfew Tower to encourage people to enjoy our local heritage and, as part of the landscaping, we will be polishing up these hidden jewels from the old London Bridge.

“And, I can promise we will not be selling off our parts of London Bridge to anyone, whether they’re from Arizona or Azerbaijan!”

The refurbishment work will include a new landscaped entrance to the Abbey Green ruins from East Street, Barking around the Curfew Tower.

The work is part of a heritage project by Be First which includes refurbishing the historic shop fronts in the Barking Conservation Area and a programme of community engagement on local history.

David Harley, Head of Regeneration at Be First, said: “At Be First we’re keen to preserve and celebrate the borough’s history. The Abbey ruins and the London Bridge stones are not only precious to Barking and Dagenham, they are precious to London.”

Be First will be consulting on the designs of the project later this year before restoration works begin in 2020.


Road and pavement work on the way in Barking town centre

As part of its commitment to build a better Barking and deliver 169 affordable and shared ownership homes on a former car park at Linton Road, Be First has announced there will be a series of pavement and road works in Cambridge and Linton roads during the summer.

Starting on Tuesday, 18 June, there will be a series of works to pavements and road alterations along Cambridge Road and Linton Road for several weeks.

As a result, there will be some pavement and lane closures and installation of traffic lights.

Tom Mather, Construction Director for Be First, said: “We hope to keep any disruption to a minimum, however, these preparations works are unfortunately necessary as part of our plans to deliver a fantastic new development of affordable homes for local people.”



Clip clop not hip hop

The sound of horses’ hooves will be mingling with the folk music around Barking this weekend, thanks to a heritage feature presented by Be First.

As part of the National Lottery Heritage Funded, Barking Town Heritage Project, a Victorian style horse and carriage will be on display in the town centre, to coincide with the Barking Folk Festival on Saturday, 8 June. You can meet them from 12 to 2pm, outside the Curfew Tower, opposite East Street – the focus of the project.

Simone Panayi, Be First Community Engagement Officer, explains: “We thought it would be fun to bring a horse and carriage back to Barking, like in the days of the late Victorian and Edwardian era, which is when many of the buildings in the town centre date back to.

“We thought it would be a good idea to make sure the heritage horses are around during the folk festival to add to the atmosphere, by the look of the line-up there won’t be any hip hop, but we’ve added the clip clop!”

Local residents, shoppers and festival goers will also get a chance to have their picture taken with the horse and carriage and find out how to become a Heritage Volunteer.

To find out more about the project or how to become a volunteer you can also go to


Green Gascoigne estate will set new environmental standards

Councillors approved plans to build over 500 homes on a new look eco-friendly Gascoigne estate at a Barking and Dagenham Council planning committee last night (3 June 2019).

The development, in the heart of Barking town centre, will feature eleven new buildings and 526 flats, of which 65% will be affordable rent or shared ownership, and 35% for private sale.

Be First, the Council’s regeneration company, expects to set new environmental standards, by embracing designs by Scandinavian architects White Arkitekter, making the new look Gascoigne among the greenest residential areas of the town centre.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “These plans for the new look Gascoigne Estate set a new gold standard for green living in the borough.

“They will also provide hundreds of much needed affordable homes for local people in a sustainable design which will make it among the greenest estates in the borough.”

The plans include:

  • Attractive, tree-lined public spaces, including an entirely new park – the 5,000 square metre Gascoigne Square – with public art and striking designs in a mixture of traditional and modern styles.
  • Energy supplied by an array of rooftop photo-voltaic cells and connection to the district heating system, with energy savings expected to be 40% of CO2 emissions against the Building Regulations.

Pedal power will also have a big part to play as Be First plans to install over 1,000 cycle parking spaces, recognising both the low car ownership levels in the area, the convenience of nearby public transport and an ambition to encourage active travel in the borough.

Jennie Coombs, Head of Affordable Housing at Be First, commented: “This latest phase of this exciting project will deliver vastly improved homes for new and existing tenants. And we’ve taken the design to the next level, to make sure the quality of the public spaces matches the quality of the flats themselves.

“This landmark development will be the borough’s most ambitious and greenest ever and will be a template for environmentally-friendly living for the 21st century.”


We’re moving on Upney

Plans to build 95 new affordable homes on the site of a poor quality building in Upney were approved last night at Barking and Dagenham Council’s planning committee tonight (3 June). 

The development at Sebastian Court, which being managed for the Council by Be First, the Council’s regeneration company, will provide a mixture of one and two bedroom Council homes together with a large community room.  

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council said the plans show the borough is moving on up. 

He said: “The new Sebastian Court development epitomises what we’re trying to achieve in the borough. Delivering high quality, 100% affordable publicly owned homes for ordinary, working people.” 

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First, said: “Sebastian Court became a notorious eyesore so I am delighted we can now move on and start building well-designed homes on the site.   

“They’ll provide much-needed new homes for local people and significantly improve the local environment.” 

Plans to redevelop the monolithic slab design Sebastian Court originated in 2016 when it became apparent that the flats were not only very unpopular but were also expensive to repair and maintain, attracting high levels of anti-social behaviour.   

In response, the design for the new flats consists of three attractive blocks, staggered to allow better natural light and easier movement from the street, together with an ‘active frontage’ which will reduce the possibility of anti-social behaviour.  A children’s playground and striking green planting will also improve the local landscape. 

The homes are designed to be bright and airy, each with a balcony and large windows on at least two sides with raised ceiling heights to allow extra light.  High quality insulation, onsite CHP power generation and roof-mounted photo-voltaic panels will also keep fuel bills low and reduce the buildings’ carbon footprint.  

The approved scheme adds to the growing pipeline of new affordable housing within the borough. The original Sebastian Court building contained 65 flats, of which only 59 were occupied in 2016. Every one of the 95 new flats will be affordable, increasing the Council’s stock of sub market rate housing on the site by almost a third. The Council will let 33 flats to tenants at affordable rents, 29 at London affordable rent and offer the remaining 33 for shared ownership. 

The contractors, Jerram Falkus, are expected to start building works in December 2019 and complete by early 2021.

Notes to editors: 

London Affordable Rent for 2018/19 equates to £158.84 a week for a two bedroom flat.