The Inclusive Growth event I attended last week in Barking provided residents with much-needed updates on future development plans including 10,000 new homes. It also offered residents the opportunity to say what they think is needed right now – and what they can contribute.
At the event I talked first to Matt Scott, who is leading the Thames Ward Community Project, and Lord Kerslake, hired by Barking and Dagenham Council to chair their BeFirst Regeneration Agency.
Both agreed that in order to develop new homes, create more jobs and better places, residents should be at the heart of the process from the start.
Later I talked to residents who had plenty of ideas of their own about could be done how, by residents themselves.
Siji Alonge described his vision for a centre to help people develop their own businesses in Barking.
Vanessa Raimundo, of Mums on a Mission, explained how to bring people back into work. With help to achieve skills and confidence people can be their own bosses.
Sara Douglas had ideas for bringing together people with mental health issues and children – benefiting both.
Three things occurred to me after the event:
- First, with change coming so rapidly to the area, putting residents at the heart of the conversation, as advocated by Lord Kerslake, will require a stronger process of communication and engagement from all sides – developers, council and residents.
- Second, residents need their own channels of communication to share ideas about what they can do, as well as raise issues with council and developers.
- Third, Thames Ward and the Riverside development could provide a great example of how growth can benefit existing and new communities – if all interests can work out the basis for collaboration.
I know some of these innovations are already under discussion. Last week’s event was a great start.