Beam Park: 3,000-home Rainham and Dagenham development which will take 12 years to build gets green light
PUBLISHED: 17:13 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:33 01 October 2018
London's deputy mayor for housing has approved controversial plans for a 3,000-home development in Rainham and Dagenham - a scheme that was initially rejected by Havering Council over fears about looming tower blocks.
Plans for the Beam Park development, which is a joint venture between Havering and Barking and Dagenham, were rejected by Havering Council’s planning committee in April, but in May it was announced the Mayor of London’s office was taking over all planning powers for the site.
Since then, developers have actually increased the proposed heights of a number of tower blocks, with the largest proposed skyscraper now reaching 16 storeys.
At a representation hearing held at London’s City Hall today (Friday, September 28), Jules Pipe CBE gave full permission to phase one of the development - 640 homes to be built in Rainham – and agreed the rest of the proposals in outline.
The revised scheme includes 50pc affordable housing, an improvement on the 35pc suggested when the scheme was first put forward in late 2015.
The finished Beam Park neighbourhood will also include two primary schools, a health centre, a leisure complex and a linear park running along the old A13.
As well as this, a new station on the London Fenchurch Street to Southend line will be opened to ease traffic and infrastructure fears.
Construction is expected to take 12 years, but the last five phases of construction will not be permitted to begin until the new Beam Park station is fully operational.
During a five-minute speech in which he attempted to justify his decision, Mr Pipe said: “If we are to deliver the schools, open space and genuinely affordable homes that Londoners urgently need we must ensure that we make the best use of our land and optimise the development of underused sites so that we can accommodate the growth we need in London while protecting the green belt.”
He stressed that a new station would make the new Beam Park neighbourhood “highly accessible” and that the area would then be “well-placed to kickstart the regeneration of the wider area”.
Mr Pipe said he had included the “visual impact of the development on the existing townscape” in his thinking, but said the site’s potential to accommodate taller buildings outweighed this.
He also referred to a planning report from the April 5 meeting, in which Havering’s own planning officers had said the development did not bear any of the hallmarks of overdevelopment.
However, he admitted he was aware that plans in front of officers on April 5 had been for much smaller blocks, but claimed their professional opinion was still valid, and could also be applied to the revised design - which Havering’s planning officers were never formally consulted on.
The two objectors who spoke at the meeting prior to Mr Pipe making his decision were Havering councillors Cllr Graham Williamson and Cllr David Durant.
Cllr Williamson said the plans as they currently stood would be “totally out of sync” with the surrounding area, and would set “a dangerous precedent” for developers trying to get planning permission for high-rise housing in southern Havering.
He added: “Does the mayor wish to blight the new development by creating an ‘us and them’ scenario between the existing community and any new one?
“Does the mayor really want to treat Havering with such disdain and contempt by dismissing the time and professionalism of Havering’s planners and consultants?
“Does the mayor really wish to put himself on a collision course with us, and cast himself as a threat to the character of outer boroughs?
“Overall, does he want to sour his relationship with us, and face resistance to all his future dealings in Havering?
“I suggest he shouldn’t want to. I hope he surprises us and chooses to make friends rather than enemies.”
Fellow councillor Cllr Durrant raised concerns about how Beam Park would work in conjunction with a proposed Thames River crossing nearby, and also suggested approval of the plan would signal to developers across the capital that tower blocks could be built anywhere in the city.
He told the chamber: “If this application is approved, then in effect you will be promoting high-rise supertower sprawl across inner and outer London.
“Is that the Mayor of London’s undeclared policy?”
In a formal response to the Mayor of Greater London Authority’s 22-day consultation on the new plans, Havering Council also criticised the revised proposals as “too height-focussed”, and stressed that any approval of the plans would set “an undesirable precedent” for future development in the borough.
In contrast to this, the hearing also heard from Nelupa Malik, principal development management officer at Barking and Dagenham Council, who admitted she wanted to keep her contribution “short and sweet” as she gave her borough’s full backing to the scheme.
As a health centre will be built on the site, Tim Madelin, of the NHS Barking, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group, addressed the meeting, praising the developers and architects for helping ensure the land put aside for a neighbourhood health centre was doubled to 1,500sqm from an initial proposal of 750sqm.
The scheme is a joint partnership between housing association L&Q, which will operate all of the site’s 1,513 affordable homes, and Countryside, one of the UK’s largest homebuilders.
Robert Wilkinson, managing director at Countryside Partnerships, said: “We are delighted to have received the green light for our hugely exciting plans at Beam Park.
“This project, in partnership with L&Q and supported by the Mayor of London, is an incredible opportunity to regenerate this part of the capital, and with 50pc affordable housing, will make a huge contribution to meeting local housing needs.”
Andy Rowland, L&Q’s east region managing director, added: “This milestone brings Beam Park a step closer to reality.
“The land for the Beam Park redevelopment is one of the largest sites released by the Mayor of London and the GLA to provide new homes for Londoners.
“We are looking forward to continuing our successful partnership with Countryside, the GLA, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and the London Borough of Havering, to build quality homes in places where people want to live.”
Councillor Damian White, leader of Havering Council, said: “This is yet another example of how the Mayor’s one-size-fits-all approach to regeneration fails to recognise the different needs and requirements of communities in Havering and many other outer London boroughs.
“Our three joint ventures along with other projects are helping the council to deliver the right kind of homes for Havering people, whereas the London Mayor continues to force through inappropriately high developments which are in direct breach of the council’s local planning blueprint.
“This decision, driven by the GLA’s unrealistic housing targets, goes against the council’s promise to develop thriving communities that protect the character and heritage of Havering.”