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.

Barking and Dagenham’s battle against climate change continues

A major milestone has been reached in the building of Barking’s greenest housing block this week.

The housing block in the redeveloping Gascoigne neighbourhood, features 124 affordable homes and will be the first net zero carbon building to be delivered by Be First, which is managing the redevelopment on behalf of Barking and Dagenham Council.

And to celebrate the achievement deputy leader of Barking and Dagenham Cllr Saima Ashraf met Steve Kitchen of contractors Willmott Dixon and Jared Birch of Be First at a topping out ceremony.

Cllr Ashraf, Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “This is a huge step in our march towards Barking and Dagenham becoming the green capital of London, and cementing our position as London’s largest builder of council homes.

“Once finished the new Gascoigne estate will be one of the greenest, most affordable neighbourhoods in town.”

Steve Kitchen, Operations Director, Willmott Dixon, said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating this milestone with both Barking and Dagenham Council and Be First. Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Willmott Dixon, so to be constructing Be First’s first net zero carbon building is something we’re very proud to be a part of.”

Jared Birch, Deputy Construction Director, Be First, said: “It’s a tremendous achievement by Willmott Dixon to get to this stage in the current economic climate. But it’s crucial we deliver not only affordable homes for local people but eco-friendly buildings too, to play our part in the battle against climate change.”

The 124 homes feature one-, two- and three-bedroom flats with rents starting from £168 a week at today’s prices.

The new Gascoigne neighbourhood will be one of the most sustainable * ’15 minute’ neighbourhoods in London.

It will feature:

  • Three new parks, tree lined streets and courtyards and walkable routes
  • Community gardens and orchards
  • Photovoltaic panels on roof spaces.


* The 15-minute neighbourhood – will provide residents access to most, if not all, of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home, making life more liveable for residents, by improving air quality and making neighbourhoods safer, quieter, more diverse, inclusive and economically vibrant.

Need to build affordable homes is crucial says east London Leader

An east London council leader has said this week, that the building of affordable rental homes for ordinary working people has never been more important.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “With the turmoil in the mortgage markets and a sharp rise in interest rates on the horizon, it remains vital that local authorities build affordable rented, homes for ordinary working people.”

Cllr Rodwell was speaking following a topping out ceremony at the redevelopment of the Gascoigne neighbourhood in Barking, this week.

Cllr Rodwell said: “The redevelopment of the Gascoigne neighbourhood is one of the largest and ambitious in London. Once completed it will be a model of green, urban living delivering genuinely affordable homes, treeline courtyards and streets and spaces for local families and people to live, enjoy and thrive.”

Cllr Rodwell was joined at the ceremony by Sir James Wates – Chairman of the Wates Group, builders of over 2,100 new homes on the redevelopment, and Mark Crane of Be First, who is managing the regeneration project.  

Yesterday’s event featured the topping out of 386 homes which will be rented out to local people for around £105 a week for a one bed-room flat*.

Sir James said: “This celebration, on site here in Barking, represents a step in the right direction in providing affordable rented properties for local people who will soon be living in and working from these warm, comfortable and energy efficient homes. Last year, 40% of all homes built by Wates Residential were classed as affordable, and it is only by working in partnership with public sector organisations like Be First that these homes can be delivered”.

Mark Crane, Head of Affordable Housing Delivery said: “The redevelopment of the Gascoigne neighbourhood is Be First’s biggest development, as part of an ambitious housing delivery programme that will provide thousands of high-quality affordable homes for local people, together with new public realm and community facilities that will benefit new residents moving into the borough, as well as existing residents. We are working hard with our partners to overcome the economic challenges we are currently facing, in order to continue building affordable homes for local people.”

Wates has been working closely within the borough, employing the services of businesses and people in the local area to provide an economic boost. So far, 1,131 hours have also been invested into volunteering in and supporting the community on projects such as the creation of Phoenix Park – a new pocket park designed by residents. A total of 719 students have been supported by education activities and programmes to improve the employability of young people.

The new Gascoigne neighbourhood will be one of the most sustainable ’15 minute’ neighbourhoods in London.

It will feature:

• Three new parks, tree lined streets and courtyards and walkable routes
• Community gardens and orchards
• Over 1,600 cycle spaces
• Roof terraces with solar panels

*These prices do not include service charge

We want your views on the draft Chadwell Heath Transformation Area Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document

Barking and Dagenham Council has ambitious plans for growth, including the creation of thousands of new homes and jobs.

Many of these homes and jobs will be created in the Borough’s transformation areas as set out in the emerging Barking and Dagenham 2037 Local Plan. One of these areas covers the Chadwell Heath Industrial Estate, and we would like your views on our plans for development coming forward in the area.

Be First, on behalf of the Council, have prepared a draft masterplan for the area, setting out in more detail where different types of development should come forward, and the expected provision with regard to necessary supporting infrastructure such as education facilities, green spaces and the wider public realm. This document supplements the emerging Local Plan 2037, providing further guidance for developers, and more detailed information for the local community and other interested stakeholders. Once adopted by the Council, the Masterplan (as a supplementary planning document) will be pivotal in helping to shape development in the area as it will be a material consideration in planning decisions.

Tell us your views on these proposals! To contribute to our online consultation, please visit the Council’s Supplementary Planning Document webpage to find out how to view the Masterplan and submit your thoughts. The consultation is open for comments between until 23:59 Monday 14th November 2022. Your feedback will help us finalise the Masterplan before it is formally adopted.

Gas bill busting homes take shape in Dagenham

Building of 63 affordable homes in Dagenham reached a major milestone at a topping out ceremony this week.

Once complete the new homes in Oxlow Lane will be heated by an air source heat pump meaning they will be gas free.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, who met George Legg of builders Mulalley and Jared Birch of Be First at the event, said: “It’s great to see these new affordable homes for local people take shape.

“And as we face a cost-of-living crisis, because they will be gas free tenants’ energy bills will be more stable and withstand the volatility of gas prices which we’re seeing now.”

George Legg, Mulalley Construction Director New Build Division said: “Mulalley is proud to have worked in partnership with Be First to help them deliver the Oxlow Lane scheme and create these high quality and much needed new affordable homes to support the local community.”

Jared Birch, Deputy Construction Director said: “Despite the massive increase to commodity prices in the construction sector, Be First is continuing to deliver affordable homes for the people of Barking and Dagenham. This is because of excellent forward planning and outstanding co-operation by contractors such as Mulalley.”

The 63 homes will be rented out a low as £168 a week at today’s prices for a one bedroom flat.

The development is due to be completed by December 2023

Industria – reaching new heights

A revolutionary industrial development in Barking has reached a major milestone at a topping out ceremony this week.

And to see how ‘Industria’ was taking shape was Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Jared Birch of Be First and Paul Heather of builders McLaren.
Once completed, ‘Industria’ will be the first multi-storey light industrial development to be built in the UK.

Cllr Rodwell said: “Industria will be a hive of industry hosting a range of makers, shakers and creators which will provide hundreds of jobs for local people. Industria will reach new heights in business development not only in east London but the UK.”

Industria will house tenants in flexible units arranged around a vehicle accessible multi-storey hub. The experience for visitors and neighbours will be enhanced by green walls, business lounge, lively shopfronts, and a new local café.

McLaren, the main contractor delivering Industria, is managing a complex programme of works. The contracting team installed a helical staircase to offer vehicle access to the upper floors of the development, using laser scanning to overcome structural challenges and turning the building into a fully connected industrial space.

During Industria’s delivery, McLaren is creating job opportunities in the local area by employing 38 tradespeople on site and offering apprenticeships in engineering and project management to young people in the community.

Paul Heather, Group Managing Director, McLaren Construction, said: “We’re delighted to reach the highest point in delivering the UK’s first light industrial space. Our team is creating much needed workplaces for businesses to expand in and bringing exciting opportunities to the local community. Working collaboratively with Be First, our team is successfully managing rising costs in some materials on the project with fixed-priced contracts, including structural steelwork, precast concrete panels, lift shafts and stairs, composite and built-up external cladding systems for the façade and roof, helping us stay on programme and on budget to complete the scheme in February 2023.”

Jared Birch, Be First’s Deputy Construction Director said: “Although the construction industry is suffering from massive inflationary pressures like other sectors and the wider public, early prudent planning is enabling us to cope and deliver innovative developments such as Industria so we can accomplish our mission to create more jobs and homes for the people of Barking and Dagenham.”

Industria is supported by £1 million of the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, delivered through the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), alongside Barking and Dagenham Council’s investment of £37 million.

Other key features include:

• Four storey core buildings arranged each side of the courtyard
• Flexible light industrial units from 1700-5200 sq. ft (160-475 sq. m) and flatted factory units from 140-2500 sq. ft (15-230 sq. m)
• Goods lifts and vehicle ramp with vehicle access across three floors
• Business centre, meeting rooms and staffed reception
• Fully glazed ground floor shop units with a cafe open to the public
• On-site parking and cycle parking
• Excellent BREEAM rating for sustainability and environmental impact
• Top quality landscaping
• An estimated 350-300 people employed on site
Industria is just yards away from 12 Thames Road, an industrial/residential hybrid development under construction in what is fast becoming known as the Factory District – a mixed-use destination that reflects the area’s heritage and combines new homes with a future-proofed industrial offer.
Cllr Rodwell said: “With Industria and 12 Thames Road we are looking to create a new Factory District which will transform a dated industrial area which will deliver jobs, modernise the local economy and provide homes fit for the future. It will be a new industrial revolution by the rivers Thames and Roding.”

The building of Industria is expected to be completed by February 2023.

Make your voice count on development

Residents, local businesses, and organisations are being urged to comment on a crucial planning document which will shape the future of the Borough.

Planners from Be First are seeking views on the contributions that developers will be expected to provide in order to ensure necessary supporting infrastructure such as schools, green spaces and improves transport connections is delivered alongside new development.

The Local Plan is set to provide 44,000 new homes, and 20,000 new jobs in Barking and Dagenham. This consultation will be used to provide further clarity on the contributions that will be expected from developers to make development acceptable in planning terms.

Tim Thomas, Head of Transport, Infrastructure and Policy Planning at Be First said:

“Planning obligations are a key part of securing key infrastructure such as schools, health and social facilities, green space and improved transport connections all needed to make sure new developments work for local people. It is crucial that local people, businesses and organisations make their voices heard on the Council’s plans for what developers should contribute to, in order to ensure new developments are appropriately supported, and as such ensuring that the Borough remains a great place to live and work in.”

The online consultation period on the SPD will start from 26 September and end on 7 November 2022.

Planners from Be First (on behalf of the Council) are seeking views on the contributions that developers will be expected to provide in order to ensure necessary supporting infrastructure such as schools, green spaces and improved transport connections are delivered alongside new development.

To read the draft SPD and comment click here. Comments can also be submitted by email to planningpolicy@befirst.london, or by post to Be First, 9th floor Maritime House, 1 Linton Rd., Barking IG11 8HG.