Is it possible that the London suburb of Barking could be developed into the next Barcelona? The London and Quadrant (L&Q) housing association along with the Greater London Authority are beginning to develop a 10,800 residential area at Barking Riverside. The project is considered to be one of the largest of its kind and will also include five schools and 65,000 square meters of commercial space. The biggest concern was the development of transport needs which has now been settled with a £263million for an extension of the London Overground to Barking Riverside. The goal is to complete at least 600 homes a year with 1,500 being affordable Section 106 housing units as the development moves forward.
David Montague, chief executive of L&Q, told the Financial Times this particular scheme was “the next big step for the housing association sector” and would help to regenerate a “vast open wasteland that has been heavily under utilised for many decades”.
“We find ourselves occupying a space no one else is occupying at the moment,” he added. “The government is getting serious about the release of land and housing associations are realising the potential that they have.”
The scheme is being developed in four stages, the first is already under construction with a mix of three and four bedroom homes, apartments and a community building, the Rivergate Centre. The second stage calls for another mix of family housing and riverside apartments that will also feature a District Centre, secondary school and rail station. The school will accommodate almost 1,800 pupils in the primary, secondary and special educational needs. The last two stages, three and four, will be riverside apartments. The new homes will be built and sold by L&Q and Bellway Homes.
The rail transportation strategy will allow the London Overground to have a station in the centre of the community. This would extend the Gospel Oak to Barking Riverside 4.5km route to a new station at Riverside. The plan was submitted to the Government for approval this past Spring 2016 to secure the support of the Transport and Works Act Order for development. Construction is set for 2017 and completion by 2021.
Mike Stubbs, TfL’s London Overground Director, stated in Construction Enquirer: “This vital new railway will open up the Barking Riverside area, supporting up to 10,800 new homes, along with new jobs and improved facilities for the local community. The London Overground network has helped regenerate other parts of London by providing a frequent, reliable and high standard rail services, and this rail extension will help Barking riverside to grow and develop.”
Barking The Next Barcelona?
Recently half of the residents of Barking voted that the area as one of the most miserable places to live in Britain. But can Barking deliver for its new development schemes to make the area more inviting?
Whilst Barking is beginning its new development it was for years seen as an isolated location with little or no services. It was described last year in the Guardian Cities: ‘…there’s nowhere to sit and have coffee, no pub, no police station, no youth club, no football pitch – unless you hire it from the school – and the doctor’s surgery will only open when there are 10,000 people living here.’
“It’s like living on an island,” says Yvonne Thomas, chair of the local residents’ association. She told Guardian Cities last year “Before the (Morrisons) shop opened in February, to get a pint of milk on a morning could take an hour in the car because of the traffic.” Khushnood Ahmed also said: “The shop is a Harrods for us.”
A new scheme for the Barking and Dagenham borough was recently announced and its the first in the country that offers shared ownership by council tenants of their council property. Known as The Right to Invest Scheme, it will help provide home ownership to low income residents to help give them an opportunity to be on the property ladder.
Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, told Todays Conveyancer: “The chronic housing crisis in London is getting worse, especially for those on low incomes already suffering the effects of austerity and the proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill are likely to impact negatively on our tenants even further, so we have to do the right thing by taking action to try and help those most at risk.
“We are a nation of home owners and it is the dream of many to own their own home. However, Barking and Dagenham has the lowest level of owner- occupation in London, so it is important that we help those on low incomes not get priced out of the housing market or forced out of London.”
So will all this bring new rental property investors, residents and commercial interests to Barking and transform a former power station site into the new Barcelona?
Recent comments by to the Evening Standard Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham council, said: “Barcelona and other cities around the world have developed under-used wharves and harbours into vibrant waterfront attractions. I see no reason why Barking Riverside cannot draw on the best of these developments.”
Mr Rodwell also said: “It will be a perfect place for Londoners to cool off and hang out when it gets too hot in the city.”
By Kevin Murphy: www.kevinmurphy.london