London’s most ambitious town hall boss wants to transform Barking’s depressed and downtrodden town centre into a gleaming “mini-Manhattan”.
Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham council, who first compared Barking’s run-down river frontage to a “Barcelona on Thames, revealed his unlikely “futuristic” 10-year plan today amid the yachts and palm trees of the annual MIPIM property conference on the French Riviera.
Images show skyscrapers rising above the town known as the birthplace of England football captains Sir Bobby Moore and John Terry and songwriter Billy Bragg, the “Bard of Barking”.
Mr Rodwell wants to revive a centre dominated by pound shops and social housing — after a “30-year downward trajectory” — through £2 billion of investment that will eventually bring 6,000 new homes, smarter shops and an art film cinema.
But he insisted that Barking would remain true to its working-class roots and that the regeneration would be aimed at improving life for locals.
Mr Rodwell 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.”
He added: “Local people don’t want gentrification, they want ordinary Londoners to be able to live here. If we don’t do that, London dies as a place. We need a mixed community.”
Much of the new housing will be for rent or shared ownership.
Mr Rodwell said: “The fact is we led London and the country on new-build 100 years ago with the Becontree estate, which everyone else followed. That’s what we are going to do again now.”
The plans have been drawn up on behalf of the council’s own regeneration company Be First by architects Weston Williamson + Partners.
The first phase will involve 2,200 new homes built above and around a revamped Barking station, and two hectares of green space dubbed “Central Bark”. The station will retain its Grade II listed canopy.
*The old Baking city centre (l) and an artist impression of what it could look like (r)
Speaking at MIPIM in Cannes, Pat Hayes, managing director of Be First, said: “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 that will serve the people of Barking and east London.”
|13.9 square miles||22.83 square miles|
|Barking Abbey, Eastbury Manor House, Valence House Museum||Empire State Building, Times Square, Guggenheim Museum|
|Billy Bragg, Stacey Solomon , John Terry||Robert De Niro, Alicia Keys, Al Pacino|
|Barking FC, Dagenham & Redbridge FC||NY Knicks, Yankees and Mets|
|Mecca Bingo||Madison Square Garden|
|Claim to fame|
|Former home of Dagenham Ford||The city that never sleeps|