Putting a decent roof over local people’s heads

Plans to convert a disused hospital building into emergency temporary housing for local homeless families were given the go-ahead on Monday night at Barking and Dagenham Council’s planning committee.

The proposal to refurbish the former Grays Court hospital in Dagenham includes 62 temporary accommodation rooms, a new community space and a GP out of hours service.

Cllr Cameron Geddes, cabinet member for regeneration and social housing, said: “The refurbished Grays Court will provide comfortable living spaces to local homeless families who may otherwise have been sofa surfing or living in expensive bed and breakfast accommodation.

“And there will be the continuation of the out of hours GP service for local people and a new community space too.

“Grays Court will give us the opportunity to accommodate homeless households in a supported environment instead of expensive, and often unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation or have to be moved out of the borough.”

The new 62 room centre will be managed by the council’s hostels 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 development will be led by Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company.

Matthew Westwood, Senior Development Manager at Be First, said: “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.”


Gifts made in the east star in Christmas special

Jewellery, ceramics, stationery, art, clothing, gifts, and games made by local residents will be on sale for Christmas in a pop-up shop in Barking station as part of a grassroots regeneration project this festive season.

The pop-up shop is a joint venture between Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering regeneration company, and the Barking Enterprise Centre (BEC), who helped fund the project as part of their commitment to support emerging arts and culture businesses.

The latest instalment at the shop is called Rock Paper Scissors which is run by local residents as part of a collaborative business programme from Every One Every Day in Barking and Dagenham.

The business programme has worked with nearly 50 makers over the last year to design, prototype and make new products through The Warehouse, the largest public makerspace in the UK based in Thames Road, Barking and is the third pop-up shop since last November.

Katherine Michonski, Programmes Director at Every One Every Day, said: “The aim is to support the borough’s residents — regardless of their skills and experience — to learn new making skills, make new products, and see if their products sell by test trading through the Rock Paper Scissors brand.

Lili Hristova, who along with her friend Irina Goncherenko, makes children’s books and games, said: “With the help of Everyone Every Day we have lovingly created a range of laser cut and hand finished range of games and activities for children to enjoy.

“Our aim is not only bringing a story to life but also encouraging kids to develop the story and play with it in many different ways.”

Karen West Whylie, CEO of Barking Enterprise Centre, which operates the pop up space, said: “‘The Gallery has made a real impact in Barking Town Centre since July. It seemed most appropriate to offer the space to Participatory City to highlight the work of residents in developing their creative practice.”

David Harley, Head of Regeneration at Be First, said: “The pop-up shop was created as part of our drive to bring art to the heart of Barking, which has proved very popular. The Rock Paper Scissors display is a great addition and a brilliant example of grass roots regeneration.”

Everyone Every Day is a large-scale demonstration project working to build participatory culture in the borough of Barking and Dagenham. Over the next five years, Everyone Every Day aims to support over 25,000 people to grow a new network of 250 projects and 100 businesses. They are combining the benefits of peer-to-peer co-production projects, with businesses and services — working together to improve the overall well-being of the neighbourhood, leaving no one behind. Taken together, these small practical projects form the types of hands-on, practical, and sustainable local communities people want to live in and want to help create.