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Review of the year 2019

PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 December 2019

Members of the Turkish community attend the opening of the Hasan Ozcan Weekend School in Barking. Picture: London Turkish Gazette

Members of the Turkish community attend the opening of the Hasan Ozcan Weekend School in Barking. Picture: London Turkish Gazette

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As we prepare to say goodbye to 2019, we look back at some of the stories we brought you throughout the year

Lee Spencer rowed solo across the Atlantic. Picture: Anthony UptonLee Spencer rowed solo across the Atlantic. Picture: Anthony Upton

January

The father of a teenager stabbed to death opened a school in his son's memory.

Abdullah Ozcan opened the Hasan Ozcan Weekend School at Gascoigne Primary almost a year after his 19-year-old son was killed in Abbey Road.

He said: "We wanted to do something nice in Hasan's memory. The school will be good for children and the community."

Artist's impression of the Vicarage Field redevelopment. Picture: Benson ElliotArtist's impression of the Vicarage Field redevelopment. Picture: Benson Elliot

Barking and Dagenham Council launched its own gas and electricity supplier.

Leader Darren Rodwell said the move was motivated by the need to help families struggling to meet the cost of heating their homes.

The idea was that Beam Energy could provide cheaper gas and electricity to borough residents.

Archaeologists found evidence of an Iron Age farmstead at the corner of Dagenham Leisure Park. The farm was thought to date back about 3,000 years.

Labradoodle Max - is now helping young people across the school. Picture: All Saints Catholic School.Labradoodle Max - is now helping young people across the school. Picture: All Saints Catholic School.

Students at All Saints Catholic School, Dagenham, raised £1,000 to buy a defibrillator for their school.

February

Vandals caused up to £8,000 of damage to a pitch and putt course, burning down the hut.

Steve Deeble, manager of the Central Park course in Dagenham, had spent huge sums renovating the course.

He said: "It's just too much to take in. It's the worst it's ever been. It breaks your heart."

Rail operators c2c admitted "Barking station requires a major overhaul" after disgruntled passengers complained about overcrowding and rundown facilities.

A c2c spokesman told the Barking and Dagenham Post: "Our plans for multi-million pound redevelopment of the station are at an advanced stage and will soon be submitted for planning permission."

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas started an online petition opposing plans to build a large energy party in Bexley, saying it will have a negative impact on air quality in Rainham and the Beam Paark development.

Dagenham actor Connor O'Toole was part of a group who rehearsed in front of the Duchess of Sussex when she visited the National Theatre.

March

The borough was left reeling after Dagenham scout Jodie Chesney was murdered as she hung out with friends in a Harold Hill park.

Ex-Royal Marine Lee Spencer, from Dagenham - who lost his right leg in a road accident - broke two world records by becoming the fastest person to row solo from Europe to South America.

He beat the able-bodied record for the 3,800-mile route by 36 days. And he became the first physically disabled person to row solo and unspoorted from Europe to America.

What's believed to be London's largest public maker space opened in Thames Road.

It is free to for anyone living in the borough to use and includes 3D printing, woodworking and manufacturing for textiles.

The community mourned 13-year-old Damary Dawkins who lost his four-year battle with leukaemia.

England footballer Raheem Sterling paid tribute by lifting his shirt after his second goal against the Czech Republic to show a T-shirt with a photo of him with Damary.

April

Prince Harry opened the £6.15m Future Youth Zone in Parsloes Park. And he chose nine-year-old Arberesha Deda from the crowd to help him unveil a plaque.

Georgie Hart, 18, presented the prince with a silver birth certificate holder ready for the imminent birth of his son.

Children from Thames View Infants School, Barking, took their first steps across a new zebra crossing built thanks to people power. The crossing was part of a £450,000 investment target at River Road, Thames Road and Bastable Avenue and came after the community pleaded for more safety measures.

The borough was mourning again when 12-year-old Micky Bennett, of Dagenham - who won the hearts of rappers Stormzy and D-Saro - lost his fight against leukaemia.

A BBC study found the borough was in the top 20 per cent in the country for electric vehicle charging.

But it only had 159 licensed electric cars - fewer than Redbridge (426), Tower Hamlets (326) and Newham (204).

May

It was announced three iconic London markets - Billingsgate, New Spitafields and Smithfields- would be moving to Barking Reach.

Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell said: "We have been working on this for three years and managed to beat six other boroughs to show the real home of London markets will be Barking and Dagenham in the 21st century."

A groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of construction work on the Beam Park estate.

Representatives from developers Countryside and housing association L&Q joined dignitaries from City Hall to celebrate the first stage of building work.

More than 500 children took to the streets in Barking to march against car use.

The protest by children from Manor Junior School was part of Living Streets' national campaign, Walk to School Week.

Headteacher Clare D'Netto said: "This protest sends out a powerful message that cars choke our streets and pollute our air."

"If we can encourage more walking to school, we can show our children that small steps can change their lives," she added.

June

A huge fire broke out at Samuel Garside House in Barking, destroying 20 flats and damaging another 10.

The fire broke out at around 3.30pm on a Sunday.

Residents of 80 homes had to move out after the blaze.

Everyone escaped safely but some said there was no warning from fire alarms or sprinklers.

One man told the Post: "I've lost my house, I've lost everything. The wedding plans have gone up the wall, we've been saving for two years.

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"We both work for the ambulance service so we see it in our jobs, but it's different when it's your own."

A crowd fundraiser for the victims collected £16,000 in one week.

Actress and comedienne Andi Osho visited her old college for its annual awards ceremony.

She met students at Barking and Dagenham College who quizzed her about how to get into the move industry.

July

Plans for revealed for the redevelopment of Vicarage Field, Barking.

The proposals were for 855 new flats in varying height blocks on top of a new shopping centre.

There would also be a hotel and a three-form entry primary school complete with rooftop playground.

An independent investigation into how police missed opportunities to catch serial killer Stephen Port decided none of the officers should face disciplinary action.

It found none of those involved in the initial response to the deaths of four gay men in Barking in 2014 and 2015 at the hands of 44-year-old Port had fallen short of professional standards.

Retired maths teacher Mick Fox cut the ribbon to open a new building named after him at Robert Clack Upper School.

Oil supplier Online Lubricants, of Creekmouth, Barking, won the top prize at the Barking and Dagenham Chamber of Commerce Business Awards held at Dagenham and Redbridge FC.

August

Brothers Harrison Happe, 12, and Taylor Dodd, 17, were officially thanked by the borough for raising the alarm about the Samuel Garside House fire in Barking Riverside, which destroyed 20 homes in June.

The pair were given the Leaders Recognition Award by Cllr Darren Rodwell and London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton.

Harrison had spotted flames on a balcony and rushed home to tell Taylor who called the fire brigade and then ran to the block to alert residents.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan praised the "amazing" work being done at the Future Youth Zone in Dagenham when he visited.

Film director Jenkinson Southern, 23, of Barking, recruited youngsters from the borough to make his short film G.O.A.T, which he expects to hit independent cinemas in February.

He said: "People who film in London ususally head to the main parts but there's a lot of great places in Barking. It's turning a corner."

Scrattons Farm estate held a street party to celebrate its 80th birthday.

September

All Saints Catholic School in Dagenham, welcomed an unusual newcomer to class.

Max is a labradoodle and joined the school as a therapy dog after a suggestion from the pupil-run school council.

Max was only three months old when he started school but his job is to comfort pupils and look after their wellbeing. He was chosen for his hypoallergenic fur and his friendly demeanour.

Nearly 7,000 people took part in the annual Nagar Kirtan Sikh march between temples in Barking and Seven Kings.

City Hall gave the go-ahead for a £7million redevelopment of Parsloes Park. The plan was to knock down the single story pavilion and build a gym, changing rooms and studio in its place. Three 3G sports pitches would also be created.

A charity founded in

memory of knife crime victim Jodie Chesney was launched at a special football match at Dagenham and Redbridge's stadium. The game was played between the Chesney Allstars and Sunday League Legends.

October

Barking Abbey languages teacher Gareth Williams became one of the faces of a national campaign to encourage more people to consider the profession.

Gareth starred in the Get Into Teaching campaign run by the Department for Education.

Students from Barking and Dagenham College delivered more than 600 petition cards to their MP Jon Cruddas urging him to support better investment in colleges.

Student president Yahya Adeltalukdar said: "It seems like we're going backwards. Businesses are looking for people to have skills, but how can we be successful if the courses are being cut?"

As rates of domestic violence reached a five-year high in the borough, a commission looking the causes of abuse began its work.

Valence councillor Maureen Worby sponsored the project. She said: What I want this commission to look at is the normalisation of domestic violence. What can we do to challenge that acceptance?"

November

Two teenagers were jailed for murdering Dagenham 17-year-old Jodie Chesney.

Aaron Isaacs, of Westrow Drive, Barking was jailed for 18 years. Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, of Collier Row, was jailed for 26 years.

Shed Life - a group of men on the Thames View Estate, Barking - came a step closer to realising their ambition when they secured £13,000 in funding.

The plan is to create a wooden workshop wonderland they can create and chat. Gerald Hartley said: "We get some really interesting people supporting us: professors, students and business people who I'd never have the opportunity to meet if if wasn't for Shed Life."

Eastbury Primary School, Barking, opened a reading hut to provide pupils with a peaceful place to read their favourite books.

Co-headteacher Lisa Shepherd said: "Many of our children don't actually have access to books at home so it's a fantastic opportunity for them to be able to read in an excitiing environment."

December

The parents of six-year-old Arjun Grewal praised the heroic neighbour who saved their son from a vicious dog.

Arjun will be scarred for life after he was mauled in Ilchester Road, Dagenham. Neighbour Artan Mahmood heard screaming. He rushed outside, kicked the animal and dragged it off the little boy, He then scooped up Arjun and dashed to his door. The dog leapt at his back, sending them crashing to the pavement but Artan shielded the child with his body as the dog kept attacking. He hit the dog with a shovel and ran indoors. He said: "We could hear it scratching the door. It jumped at the window, growling."

Arjun's dad Harpal Singh Grewal said: "If this man had not come outside..."

Dagenham artist Susanna Wallis created a hand-illustrated calendar inspired by the borough.

Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge and Jon Cruddas held on to their seats in the general election although their party suffered a number of defeats

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