Design proposals by RCKa for the Padnall Hall Youth Centre – a crucial new facility for young people in east London with a clear focus on improving outcomes for young people – have been submitted to Barking and Dagenham Council for planning approval. RCKa’s scheme sees the redevelopment and refurbishment of a derelict community hall that has stood vacant for over 15 years, bringing it back into productive use as a welcoming beacon for local community activity in Chadwell Heath.

RCKa was appointed in July 2023 by Be First, acting on behalf of Barking and Dagenham Council, with the contract one of the first to be awarded via the Mayor of London’s Architecture + Urbanism Framework. Bringing social value to community developments is a particular strength of RCKa: the practice scored 100% on this metric during the tender process, and the project will be the latest in a series of highly successful community-focused projects including the award-winning Nourish Hub in west London and the TNG Youth and Community Centre in Lewisham.

As part of the design process, RCKa’s drew upon the input of local young people through an extensive programme of community engagement, helping to develop a robust project narrative that focuses clearly on supporting career opportunities and therefore delivers long-term social value. Beyond harnessing the input of building users and wider stakeholders in the design process, RCKa also plan to co-create an ongoing programme of activities that not only up-skills and involves young people in the built fabric of the project, but also fosters connections that can identify local partners and future custodians of the building to ensure its long-term viability and a deep-rooted sense of ownership across the wider community.

RCKa proposes a comprehensive refurbishment of the vacant building in the heart of the Marks Gate Estate in Chadwell Heath, one of the most geographically isolated and deprived estates in the boorugh. The refurbishment will upgrade and overclad the building to achieve BREEAM Excellent, address poor circulation and improve connections with the public realm. RCKa’s work will create a more characterful and visually attractive building, containing a series of highly flexible spaces that can respond to a wide range of uses and become a cherished anchor for its local community.

The project is being delivered thanks to support from the DCMS Youth Investment Fund, which seeks to address gaps in youth provision through the development and refurbishment of 300 youth facilities in England.

Dieter Kleiner, director at RCKa, said:

“We are delighted to have been appointed to create the new Padnall Hall Youth Centre. Our approach puts young people at the heart of the process, increasing agency and building skills to define an attractive and inclusive space that supports their needs.. Social value is intrinsic to our proposals, and we are excited by the opportunities to empower local young people in the design and future operation of their new building.”

Amandeep Singh Kalra, Associate Director of Place & Design at Be First, said:

“There was a lot of interest for this project – we chose to appoint RCKa because of their passion for meaningful community-led design and their creative approach to repurposing existing spaces particularly on projects such as the nourish hub.”

“We are thrilled to have submitted planning for repurposing a previously disused community building into a much-needed space for young people, working closely with the local community throughout the process. A crucial aspect of our project is to minimise its operational emissions, with the goal of achieving our first-ever retrofitted BREEAM building in the borough.”

Cllr Cameron Geddes, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said:

“I’m delighted to say that we’re working with RCKa on this project to revitalise Padnall Hall and turn it into a key asset for the community.

RCKa share our vision of the Padnall Hall Youth Centre being a welcoming, open space for the borough’s young people – something we’re committed to providing for the B&D’s youngsters.”