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Is this the future of Barking town centre?

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:06 22 July 2019

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

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

Benson Elliot

More than 800 families could soon be living on top of Vicarage Field as part of a major redevelopment.

Vicarage Field shopping centre is set to be redeveloped. Picture: Ken MearsVicarage Field shopping centre is set to be redeveloped. Picture: Ken Mears

The plans, by developers Benson Elliott, will see the 138,000 sq m site transformed, with flats built on top of a new-look shopping centre.

When complete, it could boast up to 855 new homes, ranging from studio apartments to three bedroom flats

The tower blocks will vary in height with the tallest building set to be 138m tall - more than 20m taller than the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Alongside the homes, there is also the intention to build a 150-room hotel at the centre of the development, overlooking the main public space.

A three-form entry primary school - complete with rooftop playground - is set to be built, while there is also the intention for a new healthcare centre on the corner of Vicarage Drive and Ripple Road.

Peter Cornforth, director at Benson Elliot, said: "The redevelopment of Vicarage Field will transform what is currently an ageing 80s shopping centre into a new residential and commercial destination for east London.

"Our comprehensive masterplan was approved by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in 2017 and we are delighted to say that we are now progressing with the first phase and the reserved matters process across the project.

"Barking town centre has already undergone significant change in the last decade and the transformation of Vicarage Field will help to secure its long-term future, providing new facilities and benefits for local people."Plans also include retail and restaurant space, a multi-screen cinema and a new music venue, as well as space for small and start-up businesses.

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The cinema - pitched as being run by a "mainstream operator" - is set to be family-orientated and have five or six screens, while the music venue would be a multi-use space located close to the restaurants and cinema, on the first floor of the development.

The plans also include a mixture of private and public open space, with trees and foliage lining the first floor walkway. A separate area will be accessible to those living in the flats above.

Barking and Dagenham Council granted outline planning consent for a comprehensive redevelopment of the shopping centre back in January 2017, with Benson Elliot set to submit a reserved matters application - a more in-depth application - for the first phase of the project.

This phase, which covers the Station Parade side of the shopping centre and some of the adjacent road-facing shops, will include retail units on the ground floor, space for a gym and 26 new homes. Some of these will be larger three-bedroom flats and duplex apartments designed for families.

The existing shopping centre will remain open during this phase of redevelopment.

Benson Elliot has said it will work to help businesses currently based in Vicarage Field to find alternative premises before construction work starts, and that it feels the redevelopment is an "ideal opportunity to refresh the current tenant mix".

Plans for all phases of the development must be submitted within six years of the outline planning consent being granted, with the exception of the primary school - which could be submitted as late as January 2027.

Under plans agreed in 2017, at least 10 per cent of homes must be affordable - for sale or rent at 80pc of market value.

The intention is to deliver a largely car-free scheme, given the site's proximity to Barking station, but there will be space allocated for wheelchair and blue badge users, as well as for cycle storage.

Work on the development could begin as early as next year, with the whole site expected to take around four to five years to complete.

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