How masterplan aims to improve Barking and Dagenham for everyone

This graphic sums up the key recommendations from the report

This graphic sums up the key recommendations from the report - Credit: Archant

As an independent report reveals our borough’s key potential areas for improvement, editor Michael Adkins speaks to council leader Darren Rodwell about what’s in store for residents of all ages

Cllr Darren Rodwell speaking at the VE Day remembrance service held outside Job Drain VC statue in B

Cllr Darren Rodwell speaking at the VE Day remembrance service held outside Job Drain VC statue in Barking - Credit: Archant

A bold blueprint for the borough spanning 25 years aims to transform the infrastructure, housing, business and employment prospects for generations to come.

The Growth Commission – an independent panel of experts – carried out a “warts and all” review of Barking and Dagenham as the council seeks to “raise the aspirations” of communities, while unlocking the borough as London’s biggest growth opportunity.

Everything from burying the A13 roadway to alleviate congestion and create space for thousands of new homes, multi-million pound retail improvements in Barking, Dagenham and Chadwell Heath and greater support for business and entrepreneurship have been reviewed and outlined with 109 recommendations.

But while the report, No-one left behind: in pursuit of growth for the benefit of everyone, will help shape the council’s regeneration and development priorities it also aims to quash the “benefit lifestyle” stereotype, while supporting the vulnerable and further improving education.

“This is very much about investing in the borough’s future. Why can’t working class people aspire to do better, to have better lives,” council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell said.

“We want to raise aspirations of residents, improve educational attainment and allow them to feel pride in where they live.

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“This report allows us to stand back and look at the huge potential we have and start making it work. London is moving eastwards and the success of Barking and Dagenham is key to the success and growth of London in the next 25 years.”

Asked if he felt his “One Borough: One Community” vision was working, he said: “The whole idea of the 50th anniversary celebrations was aimed towards this. We need to challenge people’s perceptions and vision and celebrate our community every day. We are doing the summer events programme again and the response has been fantastic.

“If something is being regenerated in Dagenham, built in Barking or developed in Chadwell Heath it’s for the benefit of the whole borough. We have to be open minded. The insular world this borough has been under has disappeared.”

He explained progress was well underway with plans for a £400 million investment in the pipeline for Vicarage Field Shopping Centre and the commitment to transform the A13 flyover to better connect the borough.

He added: “We’ve come a long way very quickly. TfL (Transport for London) knows the importance of the A13, as do the MPs and chancellor. It’s a straightforward business decision that will improve the environment, housing prospects and unlock great business potential. I expect a further announcement soon.

“But while all this is vital we need to have a cultural shift. We must learn from the history of the borough. Where Ford once dominated space along the A13 will be 2,500 new homes, an industrial museum celebrating our major industries and space vital for business and retail.

“Off the back of this report doors are already starting to happen. It offers hope in times of austerity but we have to work together as one borough to make it happen. The bottom line is: no one should be left behind.”

It comes at a time when the council is forced to make £63 million in savings over four years following £100 million savings in the last four years. The council will consider each detail before making a full response in April.