Central to our vision of the New East is a commitment that we are going to secure our fair share of London’s growth, and that we are going to harness our unique potential to build a regenerated, inclusive and resilient Barking and Dagenham.
Over the next 20 years we will deliver over 50,000 new homes and over 20,000 new skilled jobs in the Borough. This kind of potential means we can build sustainable communities, not just places, in Barking Riverside, the Gascoigne Estate and many other locations around the Borough.
In 1945 Nye Bevan, the Minister for health and housing in Attlee’s Government, explained his vision for mixed communities:
“We should try to introduce in our modern villages and towns what was always the lovely feature of English and Welsh villages, where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and the farm labourer all lived in the same street. I believe that is essential for the full life of the citizen… to see the living tapestry of a mixed community.”
If we are going to make the most of our growth potential without being overwhelmed by wave after wave of gentrification, variety must be at the heart of our approach. We will shape mixed communities, with a broad spectrum of residents and housing. We will learn from our forefathers to build the Becontree Estate of the twenty-first century. We will bring together residents from different backgrounds, cultures, wealth, occupations and lifestyles, in housing of varying type, tenure and price. This is how places become strong, resilient communities. We will shape communities, not just places, building healthy and welcoming physical and social infrastructure around our new homes, rather than vast swathes of isolated accommodation.
We are the first local authority to exploit the potential of the private rental sector for delivering affordable accommodation, through Reside, our council-owned affordable landlord. Reside offers brand new, high-quality homes for affordable rent, starting at the London Living Wage or two people on the minimum wage, to people in employment. It offers life tenancies at these variable and affordable rents. Not only does this make local accommodation more inclusive and accessible, ensuring we remain an open borough, but it offers residents a way to make those crucial savings each month.
When it comes to housing, we work from the principle that everyone has the right to rent, invest and move. London was built on renters. So we offer accommodation at various levels of rent – from the London living wage to market rate – allowing residents to pay only what they can afford. If residents want to invest in their home as an asset, our ‘Help to Invest’ scheme allows them to buy a portion of the property, and pay rent on the remainder. This flexible approach to housing will allow mixed, balanced communities to thrive.
We have recently established Be First, a new council-owned company, to manage and deliver our regeneration and inclusive growth agenda. Our pragmatic approach will allow us to use Be First to build houses and fulfill our potential through the private sector, while delivering on the vision of the public sector. Be First will accelerate our regeneration by harnessing the flexibilities and attractions of the private sector, and creating previously unavailable joint ventures. While directed by the Council, the private sector will free Be First to work with great speed, delivering 2,500 homes each year, up from 600. And with Lord Kerslake as Chair, we have the best experience at the helm.
Through targeted action to promote mixed, balanced communities, we can strengthen Barking and Dagenham’s standing within London’s economy. We will be interconnected with our neighbours, but with independent strength drawn from our own diversity, skills and growth. This alternative, provincial model for growth is starkly different from that which London operates in 2017, which favours and depends on the financial power of the city centre alone. Instead, we can create a network of communities, spanning this great city, each with its own identity, culture and economic strength. This is how we ensure London has a strong, sustainable and inclusive future.
I truly believe with this approach we can actively improve our community through growth and productivity. This was the approach of Prime Minister Clement Attlee in post-war Britain, and this was the approach of President Roosevelt’s New Deal in the wartime United States. History proves that productivity and growth, when inclusive, can and will fuel stronger, fairer communities such as Barking and Dagenham.
We also have the privilege of enjoying a great amount of green and open space in Barking and Dagenham. This means we have space to grow, but we must also ensure we grow in a sustainable and smart way, making this Borough the green Capital of the Capital. We have established our own green energy company – B&D Energy – to invest in the long-term sustainability of the Borough, and are working with the private and third sectors to facilitate the use and self-dependence of our parks and open spaces. As we prosper we will take further action on air quality, pollution and recycling, to guarantee our growth is sustainable, and not destructive.
Many people are talking about combating gentrification and our housing crisis.
Jeremy Corbyn himself has spoken a great deal about inclusive growth, and acting for the many, not the few. In fact, the National Labour Party has adopted our mantra of ‘no-one left behind’, to highlight the vital importance of inclusive growth, and we are among the first to take practical action to secure our future.
Yes, we are going to grow and change, but with a focus on inclusive, mixed and balanced communities, and through targeted action of the public, private and third sectors, we can ensure Barking and Dagenham remains welcoming for all parts of our community. We do this because we know that regeneration is not just about bricks and mortar, it is about hearts and minds; people.
I am not professing to hold all the answers. The challenges of gentrification, the housing crisis and exclusive growth are momentous. We have a real fight on our hands to secure our future, but critically, through actions such Reside and Be First, we are not just talking about our problems and worrying about what is to come. We are taking decisive and pragmatic action, and we are ready to fight for the values of inclusion and fairness.
For more information about London’s biggest growth opportunity view London’s growth opportunity
What powers can be used, and what powers do we need, when collaborating with the private sector to ensure we build mixed, balanced communities?
How can we make the most from our green and open space while ensuring we act sustainably and responsibly?
To build truly inclusive communities, we must combat prejudice in all its many forms. How can we incorporate this priority into our regeneration plans?