Mini-Manhattan on the horizon in Barking

A futuristic vision for a Barking town centre for aspirational Londoners was launched today (14 March) by Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering urban regeneration company.

The concepts designed by architects Weston Williamson + Partners were unveiled at MIPIM Cannes to an audience of investors, developers and city planners. The centrepiece is a major new development built above a revamped Barking station

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “The skyline suggests a mini-Manhattan.

“But the new look town centre will not be a playground for the rich – it must deliver truly affordable homes and a range of great leisure and retail facilities for ordinary Londoners.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First said: “We’re raising the bar for development here in Barking and Dagenham, so our vision is deliberately ambitious, designed to ignite interest among investors, and excitement among local people. It is a starting point but the end point we’re seeking is a brilliant new town centre which will serve the people of Barking and east London.”

Bea Young, Associate Partner at Weston Williamson + Partners said: “This vision realises a fantastic opportunity to reinvigorate Barking town centre through the transformation of the station and by improving connectivity between neighbourhoods.

“We have been working with Be First on an ambitious masterplan and architectural concept, which celebrates the richness of Barking, enhances its character and puts the integration of people and places at the heart of the design.”

With the station building at its heart, the proposed scheme would deliver 2,200 new homes, together with commercial and social infrastructure, knitted together by two hectares of clean, green, accessible open spaces. The station itself will retain its Grade II listed canopy which is based on Rome’s Termini.

The masterplan includes significant over-track development – creating a series of urban quarters linked by a reinvigorated high street which will serve as an urban and cultural magnet, linking the existing civic centre and town squares.

And a new green spine, parallel to the high street, will connect public spaces and provide an improved retail offer.

The new street layout in a loose grid looks to build urban quarters complemented by green courtyard spaces, echoing the layout of exemplary town centres in London.

“And by retaining the Roman style station, Barking would have a brilliant blend of the big apple and the eternal city!”, Councillor Rodwell added.

More information.

East London leader backs Made in Dagenham star for Oscar win

Barking and Dagenham Council’s leader has sent a good luck message to Sally Hawkins who has been nominated for best actress at the Oscars for her role in the Shape of Water.

Councillor Darren Rodwell said: “Like most Brits, I hope Sally Hawkins grabs an Oscar, not only for her role in Shape of Water.

“But I am also biased because of her great acting in Made in Dagenham, which showcased the best of our borough’s strong women.”

Cllr Rodwell was speaking before the tender process to bring London’s largest film studios and media complex to a 20 acre-site on former brownfield land in Dagenham ends on 16 March.

Cllr Rodwell said:

“I will look forward to seeing Sally and other great stars in films Made in Dagenham when we bring London’s largest studios to this borough.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company, which is managing the tender exercise, said: 

“We’ve had tremendous interest from a range of really top notch operators. So, we’re confident that it will not be long before Dagenham becomes famous for films and not just Fords.”

For more details go to

Official tender for Made in Dagenham film studios launched

The race to find the operator for London’s largest film studios in 25 years is officially underway.
Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company, announced the official tender exercise today.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “We want a visionary partner to help us make the Made in Dagenham film studios fact not fiction.”

Following a good response to the expressions of interest stage which ran recently, Be First is now inviting formal tenders by the 16 March.

The operator will be charged with running the 20-acre site to compete with major international studios and provide desperately needed studio space in the capital.

Cllr Rodwell said: “We want these studios to be on a scale Steven Spielberg can be proud of, but more importantly we want them to benefit local people.

“The studios, from construction right through to when they’re running, will provide thousands of jobs for our residents in all manner of trades and generate £35 million for the local economy.

“The winner of the bid doesn’t necessarily have to be big but needs to think big.”

Details at

Drive for Digital Dagenham on track

Barking and Dagenham’s ambition to rival Old Street area as the capital’s new tech city took a step closer to reality this week after a planning application was submitted to develop two new buildings in the borough, which will be used as data centres.

NTT Communications Corporation has submitted an application to develop the 212m long buildings and this is now with planners at Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “This is an exciting development and shows our drive to attract tech businesses is beginning to pay off.”

If planning consent is given, the data centres will be near the proposed Made in Dagenham film studios on the former brownfield Sanofi site.

Cllr Rodwell said: “We want our borough to be famous not only for films but also modern media and tech companies looking to build their brands and businesses.

“It means more quality better paid jobs for local people and it will be the only site in London that has media, data and science in one location.”

The planning application is open to consultation and is due to be decided by the council’s independent development control board.

A great new school ensures no child is sent to the back of the class

A new super state of the art school has opened in east London as part of a flagship regeneration development.

Greatfields School in Barking, which will eventually be part of a campus for 2,430 students, including a primary school, secondary school and sixth form first opened its doors in September 2016, and has just moved Year Seven and Year Eight pupils to its new permanent accommodation.

The school, which is being built in three stages, will cover over 21,500 sqm on the former Gascoigne Estate, which is being redeveloped to provide hundreds of quality, affordable homes.
Headteacher of Greatfields School, Richard Paul, said: “I am thrilled with the quality of our brand-new school which has been designed with our teaching and learning philosophy at the core.”

The ‘inside out’ design means larger, modern classrooms that allow teachers to arrange the flexible teaching spaces according to needs and can literally ensure no pupil is put to the back of the class.
Mr Paul added: “Our new building is at the heart of this wonderful community and my staff and I will work tirelessly to ensure that the young people of this community have access to a first-class education which gives them the opportunity to go on and achieve their aspirations.”

The Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council commended Partnership Learning and Be First for the speed and efficiency of the build, which means Barking and Dagenham continues to build new school places for new communities.

Cllr Rodwell said: “We are keeping pace with our fast-growing school population, meaning no child in this borough is without a school place.

“Greatfields School is a great new school for a great regeneration project in London’s growth borough, and I am sure the staff and pupils will produce great things in the future.”

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First, which is helping to deliver the project, said: “Greatfields School is at the heart of one of our flagship regeneration projects and our mission to help deliver 50,000 homes and 20,000 jobs in the borough over the next 20 years.”

Name change is not enough

Former civil service supremo, Lord Kerslake, has commented on the decision to add ‘housing’ to Sajid Javid’s job title.

The Chair of Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company said: “In what is the most urgent priority for the Government, I fear it will take a lot more than a name change to tackle the housing crisis in the country, although I do understand the statement of intent by the Prime Minister.

“The challenge is now for the government to radically increase the building of homes of all tenures, including those for social rent, that will really make the difference.”

Lord Kerslake, said Be First will be accelerating the building of homes in Barking and Dagenham.
He said: “Be First will be playing its part to make a difference by helping to deliver 50,000 homes in London’s most affordable borough over the next 20 years.

“Many of these homes will have rents pegged to local pay rates. It shows we’re leading the way in providing a socially inclusive solution to the capital’s housing crisis to make sure no-one is left behind.”

East London council rails against delay threat to Overground extension

Barking and Dagenham Council’s leader has said any delays to extension of the Overground to Barking Riverside will be unacceptable.

Councillor Darren Rodwell was speaking after it emerged the design tender exercise has slipped by five months, according to media reports.

Cllr Rodwell said:

“Any possible delay to the extension of the Overground to Barking Riverside will be unacceptable.

“Not only is this extension critical for the Barking Riverside development, our pioneering regeneration company, Be First, has some ambitious development ideas in this area too, including at Creekmouth, with 5000 new homes along the sweep of the Thames, and other sites include Barking Riverside Gateways and Castle Green.

“All in all over 30,000 homes and thousands of new jobs.

“I will be seeking reassurances from TfL that they are doing everything they can to deliver on their promise that this service will start in 2021.”

Pat Hayes, Be First’s Managing Director, said: “The extension of the Overground to Barking Riverside is not just crucial to the development of this site but also to the regeneration of the rest of the borough and it is vital it’s not delayed by procedural issues. ”
For more information on Be First, go to

Lord Bob Kerslake brands budget a ‘mixed bag’ on housing

Former Civil Service Head and Chairman of Be First, Lord Kerslake, has branded the Chancellor’s budget ‘a mixed bag’ which will struggle to deliver the governments’ ambition on new housing.

Lord Kerslake said: “I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of £15bn of new support for housing but it doesn’t reflect the government’s ambition to solve the housing crisis and, crucially, it’s unclear about how it will help ordinary people to find a truly affordable home.

“In particular, the opportunity to fully lift the cap on Local Authority’s ability to borrow and build has been missed.

“In contrast, cuts to stamp duty run the risk of fuelling house price inflation, which could add to the frustration of the millions of people unable to get a mortgage in the first place.”

Lord Kerslake said Be First will continue to generate homes and growth in east London.

He said: “As London is moving east, Be First is spearheading the drive to build homes in the capital by helping to deliver around 50,000 homes and 20,000 jobs over the next 20 years in Barking and Dagenham.
“The borough is blessed with affordability, land availability and connectivity.”

An east end epic is coming

Be First – Barking and Dagenham Council’s pioneering urban regeneration company – today issued an invitation to ambitious investors, entrepreneurs and businesses to help build London’s largest film studios and media complex in Dagenham.

Announcing the hunt for partners, Barking and Dagenham Council’s Leader, Cllr Darren Rodwell, said: “We are looking for like-minded partners to help us bring world class film studios to Dagenham.
“It will be an east end epic which will create hundreds of quality jobs and inject millions into the local economy.”

And Cllr Rodwell said he wants the studios to inspire local talent to become tomorrow’s stars of the screen.

He said: “I hope that bringing London’s largest studios to Dagenham will inspire local people to get involved in the film industry.

“It would be brilliant if a Made in Dagenham film studios leads to stars Made in Dagenham.”

And backing the move too is iconic photographer and east ender, David Bailey.

He said: ““This is a great opportunity to bring arts and crafts to Barking and Dagenham.”
The announcement follows the release of a feasibility study on the possibility of studios at Dagenham East, commissioned by Barking and Dagenham Council and the Greater London Assembly.

It concludes that ‘Dagenham East represents a rare chance to build a world-class film studio within the boundaries of Greater London’ while supporting the ‘long-term success of the UK’s booming film and TV production industries’.

It suggests the studios would also directly create around 780 jobs and generate £35 million a year to the UK economy.

The job of finding partners to deliver a Made in Dagenham film studios and media complex on the 20-acre site on former industrial land rests with Be First.

Barking and Dagenham is already a major location hotspot for film and TV makers, with a host of blockbusters and TV dramas being filmed in the borough, including Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Sky’s Lucky Man and Channel 4’s Humans through Film LBBD.

Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First, said: “This is an outstanding opportunity for an ambitious organisation to make help make Dagenham famous for films as well as Ford’s.
“We have had interest already but we really want to see the full potential of this site!”
Be First’s search for a builder and operator of the new studios is the company’s first major project since its launch in October 2017.

Expressions of interest can be made before 20 December. More details can be found on the Be First website:

A bridge not far enough

Although the Mayor of London has dropped plans to build a garden bridge, Barking and Dagenham Council’s leader wants a new bridge a bit further down-stream spanning the River Roding – linking two massive regeneration hotspots.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “With the Mayor dropping the Garden Bridge plan, I would urge him to consider our proposals for a bridge over the River Roding.
“I realise bridges don’t grow on trees but if we could link Barking Riverside to Beckton and the Royal Docks it would have far more economic benefits than the vanity project further upstream.
“Bridging two of Europe’s largest development schemes makes sense as our area is at the epicentre of London’s eastward shift.”

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said:

“Bridging the gaps between the regeneration areas in east London is key to ensuring the economic benefits of these new developments are realised and residents are able to benefit from improved connections to where they work, live and play.”

A new bridge will also enable Be First – Barking and Dagenham Council’s new independent Regeneration Company to explore a potential development site which has fantastic views along the sweep of the Thames– bringing in around 5,500 homes and 1,000 jobs.

It will also enable existing residents better access to the Royal Docks and Canary Wharf via DLR/Crossrail and Jubilee Line services

Cllr Rodwell said: “We already have a small arts and creative community along the River Roding and with a bridge we can build on this and make it into a buzzing embankment with bars, leisure attractions and quality affordable homes – a kind of Roding Riviera.”