A cleaner, greener Padnall Lake re-opens in Chadwell Heath

Padnall Lake, the popular local lake in Chadwell Heath, which runs next to the Mark’s Gate neighbourhood, alongside the A12, officially re-opened to the public this week after a major refurbishment, delivered by Be First, the regeneration arm of Barking and Dagenham Council.

Although popular with residents, the lake had suffered from a lack of maintenance which had resulted in overgrown vegetation, uneven footpaths and had led to anti-social behaviour such as graffiti, litter and household appliances being dumped in the lake.

Be First has now completely refurbished this area as part of the Padnall Lake development. Beginning with a community consultation to understand what residents wanted from the space, they then worked with their contractors, J Murphy & Sons and architects HTA Design to bring that vision to life.

The priorities for Padnall Lake which were listened to and delivered, include:
• Enhancing and connecting local biodiversity
• Improvements to the cleanliness and quality of Padnall Lake
• A safer approach to the central underpass
• Good quality open space with opportunities for play
• Cycle and pedestrian routes
• Community space for local residents

Opening the event alongside Cllr Darren Rodwell, the Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, were local Councillor’s Simon Perry and Michael Pongo and Councillor Faruk Choudhury, the local Mayor.

Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said:

“It was great to see so many people turn up to see the lake officially open. The changes were much needed – having spent time in the area when I was younger, I can say this is a huge improvement and we’ve created a much more pleasant, safer, and enjoyable place for people to visit and spend time around.

“The lake, along with the wider Padnall Lake housing development, currently being built by Be First and our contractor J Murphy and Sons, has already created 57 new full-time jobs and two apprenticeships. This new housing development aims to build up to 260 high-quality, affordable council-owned homes.

“Working with Be First, we are improving local areas by creating jobs, building much needed housing and improving community spaces.”

Paul Hart, Contract Manager at J Murphy and Sons said:

“Construction work began in autumn 2021. Overgrown trees and vegetation were cut back, the banks of the lake were reinstated and repaired, we planted an array of new vegetation, improved footpaths, added picnic benches and a new dipping platform for the lake, installed litter bins,

“We’ve also put in bird houses and wildfowl fencing, Special plants have also been added for the likes of Coots and Moorhens, both seen on the lake at our open day event.

“We’ve had great feedback from those who attended the event, who were pleased to see the improvements we’ve made.”

There was so much positive feedback from local people who attended the event. Natalie from Marks Gate Relief Project (MGRP) said:

“The lake looks so much better and I thought it was an absolutely brilliant day. It was good to see so many people, particularly elderly people who you wouldn’t normally see walking about the estate.”

Maribel Mantecon, Senior Associate at HTA Design said:

“Following extensive community engagement and a thorough design process, I am very happy to see the transformation that Padnall Lake has undertaken and how it has become a wonderful area for neighbours to enjoy to its full and biodiversity to flourish.”

Walking to school is a winner in Barking and Dagenham

Walk to School Month and Cycle to School Week were so successful in Barking and Dagenham schools this year, that many are considering doing them more often.

Last month, nine schools across Barking and Dagenham participated; pupils from reception to Year six walked, cycled, or scooted to school at least three times a week to take part in healthy, active, and environmentally friendly journeys to school.

There are many benefits to encouraging children to walk, cycle and scoot more regularly to school. As well as reducing congestion and pollution around the school gates, it also helps your child’s mental and physical health. Children also arrive at school more ready to learn.

October’s events were such a hit, that participating school; St Joseph’s R.C. Primary School, is considering having them every term, rather than just once a year, after nearly 200 pupils participated.

Alexandra Hinton, Deputy Head & Designated Safeguarding Lead, at St Joseph’s school, said:

“Pupils at St Joseph’s really enjoyed taking part in both the Cycle to School and Walk to School Weeks. As well as the obvious physical and environmental benefits, staff noticed that pupils were more alert and ready to learn in the mornings. Many of our families also got involved and have continued to walk, scoot or cycle to school – which is great to see.”

Students were provided with incentives to encourage them to walk or cycle to school at least three times a week. Badges and bike lights were handed out to those who did, by the sponsors at Be First.

Nina Nicholas, Primary PE lead at Eastbrook School, said of the incentives:

“I think the badges and rewards for walking to school have been an enormous success. So many children are talking about walking and cycling to school now even after the Walk and Cycle to School weeks have finished.”

Be First along with Barking and Dagenham Council are keen to promote sustainable travel to all age groups and were delighted to be a part of Walk and Cycle to School Week.

Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe, Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment & School Improvement said:

“Barking and Dagenham Council are delighted to be working with Be First and Sustrans to promote the most environmentally sustainable, healthy, and economically viable ways that children can travel to school. This issue has never been more important. We hope this will inspire pupils to continue using active travel on their journeys to school.”

Lucy Foreman, Transport Planning Manager at Be First said:

“We want to encourage as many pupils to walk, scoot and cycle as possible, because there are lots of benefits associated with active travel. Walk to School Month and Cycle to School Week were great ways to motivate pupils to walk, cycle and scoot, and it was fantastic to see so much enthusiasm from the schools and pupils. Clean air around schools is important to us at Be First and Barking and Dagenham Council. We are taking every opportunity to improve air quality around our schools such as sponsoring events like this and the roll out of School Streets.”

Work gets underway on 102 new homes in Gascoigne neighbourhood, Barking

New rental homes are coming to Barking, as part of the next phase of the regeneration of the Gascoigne neighbourhood. Councillor Ashraf, Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, joined a local apprentice on site, alongside contractors Willmott Dixon, to celebrate breaking ground on this £36.1m project.

This new block will deliver an additional 102 new homes to the eastern side of the Gascoigne neighbourhood and will complement the award-winning regeneration of the whole neighbourhood to create more – and better-quality – housing, of a variety of sizes and in a safer, healthier, and more sustainably designed environment.

The ground-breaking involved Deputy Council Leader, Saima Ashraf and local apprentice Muhammed Irbaz Ali, Apprentice Document Controller at Willmott Dixon. The project is being carried out by Willmott Dixon, and the homes will be built utilising offsite construction for products such as utility pods and the plant room to ensure accelerated delivery and to reduce carbon emissions throughout the process.

The new homes add to the 650 homes already being delivered by Be First on the eastern side of the Gascoigne neighbourhood. Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council said:

“We are committed to building new high-quality homes for the people and communities in Barking and Dagenham, and this latest phase of the development at Gascoigne will provide some much-needed rental accommodation.

“As part of our mission to increase jobs and boost opportunities in the area, we’ve ensured several apprentices are hired across the regeneration of Gascoigne Estate. So far, the combined time of apprentices working on site is a total of 192 weeks, providing training, employment, and skills development opportunities for local residents.

“This project is part of our wider commitment to build 50,000 new homes by 2037 across the borough. We look forward to seeing the development become reality and further increasing our supply of good quality housing in the borough.”

Steve Kitchen, Director at Willmott Dixon said:

“We’re delighted to have started on site delivering further homes for Be First and the Gascoigne neighbourhood. Ensuring that we’re providing opportunities for our apprentices and the wider community throughout the project is incredibly important to us. We want to make sure that we leave a positive legacy for the community of Barking and providing apprenticeships, work experience and jobs, is one of the ways we can do this.”

Muhammed Irbaz Ali, Apprentice Document Controller at Willmott Dixon said:
“Working on site and being able to be directly involved in the regeneration of Barking is something I’m incredibly proud to be a part of. It’s a fantastic opportunity for my career in construction and I look forward to continuing my learning and seeing how the project progresses.”

Be First’s mission is to accelerate regeneration within the borough, prioritising growth and harnessing the economic benefits to improve the lives of residents. This community-driven programme of housing delivery will make Barking and Dagenham – less than 30 mins from central London – an increasingly attractive and prosperous place to live, work, and raise their families.

Be First has invested £75m in local construction companies and created jobs for over 900 local people so far.

See your house extension plans in 3D

Residents who have submitted planning applications for house extensions will get the opportunity to see their designs brought to life using 3D technology as part of a trial from Be First, the independent urban regeneration company wholly owned by Barking and Dagenham Council.

Using its new mobile planning app, Be First will create a 3D model based on residents’ planning applications to help visualise the final submission. Whether they have already submitted an application or are planning on submitting one soon, local residents will get the opportunity to feed back their experience of taking part in the new trial. Visual representations of planning applications should help improve design quality throughout the planning process, as well as making it more efficient.

The app will also provide easier and quick access to planning data by creating QR codes and internet links to planning application notices, and will be supported by iOS and Android. All of this will make it easier for members of the public to get involved and have their say in local planning.

Laurel Nyberg, Senior Planner at Be First said:
“Everything we do at Be First is rooted in the communities we serve. This digital planning application pilot is an exciting venture that can help to democratise the planning process by making it more accessible to everyone, while supporting our residents to build attractive and well-planned homes and extensions.

“Our communities are what makes our Borough so great. We want them to sign up to the pilot so they can try it out and have their say on the planning applications that affect them.”

Be First proactively finds ways to use innovative ways to improve services and promote high-quality design. The company is committed to finding new and better ways to engage people and communities to keep them informed and engaged throughout the planning process.

Become part of the future of planning in Barking and Dagenham! To sign up to the app, please email laurel.nyberg@befirst.london.