Housing developments will create the numbers to attract big businesses, say Barking planners

CITY HALL: Discussions are underway about the future of towns and high streets across the capital

CITY HALL: Discussions are underway about the future of towns and high streets across the capital - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Investing in housing developments within Barking and Dagenham is part of an ongoing strategy to revitalise high streets and attract large retailers to the area, planning chiefs said.

Barking, described as “London’s newest opportunity”, was one of four London boroughs represented on a panel of experts at a London Assembly planning committee meeting on Tuesday January 15.

The focus of the committee meeting was to uncover ways of reviving declining high streets across the capital and contend with the threat of online retailers and large shopping malls, such as Westfield, to the traditional high street.

David Harley, group manager for economic development and regeneration in Barking and Dagenham, said: “Everybody says we haven’t got a Marks and Spencers or a Primark and that the range of stores aren’t there, but the council can’t suddenly say to Marks and Spencers, ‘come to Barking’.

“What we need to do is get more footfall and more workers, and more housing. All of that will encourage businesses to come here.”

There were also plans to “detoxify” high streets in outer-lying boroughs from betting shops and pay-day loan firms by subjecting them to tougher planning regulations.

As it stands these firms still fall under the financial services use class — the same as a bank.

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Future housing developments, such as Barking Riverside on the site of Dagenham Sunday Market in Ripple Road, were touted as one of the ways of creating more footfall through the main town centre.

The new library and one stop shop in Dagenham Heathway, including 80 residential apartments, was given as an example of how more homes can support an ailing shopping district.

Plans to build a new Asda superstore as part of a multi-million pound retail hub in North Street would leave a vacancy in the supermarket’s current holding at the bottom of Vicarage Field Shopping Centre, a space which could be filled by a well-known high street chain.

“It will take a while but then the difference in Barking now from 10 years ago has taken time,” said Mr Harley. “What we see is that growth is the way of making sure that Barking doesn’t suffer.”

English high streets have seen drastic change to their make-up recently with three major retailers, Comet, Jessops and HMV, folding in as many months.