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Barking regen plans will ensure ‘no-one is left behind’

The London borough of Barking and Dagenham has launched a new urban regeneration company, Be First, which it claims will be socially responsible.

The company aims to deliver 50,000 homes and 20,000 jobs over the next 20 years, both as a developer and working with other firms as a development manager.

The former head of the British civil service, Lord Kerslake is serving as chairman of the Be First board. He said the new company will ‘knit together private and public interests to capitalise on the area’s opportunities’.

Be First’s managing director, Pat Hayes, said the company’s mission ‘is to help the council make sure “no-one is left behind”’, which was also the title of a recent Independent Growth Commission report, commissioned by the council.

‘In the short term we want to deliver 1,500 affordable rental homes in the next two years,’ said Mr Hayes.

‘Be First’s substantial development programme will unlock construction and permanent employment.

‘A detailed study is underway looking at growth sectors in the Borough and how the space required to support the growth can be delivered,’ he added.

‘We have ambitious plans for film studios and a media complex at Dagenham East following the progress made on growing the creative industries sector in Barking Artist Enterprise Zone.’

‘Also, of course we will be working very closely with our colleagues in the council’s job shop service and with local education and skills providers to ensure that our work leads to jobs for local people,’ said Mr Hayes.

‘For instance, we will look to work with developers to make sure there is training and jobs for local people on projects with a value of over £500,000.’

Mr Hayes said Be First will offer project management, land assembly and planning consultancy services to the council and commercial partners who ‘share our core values of delivering high quality development which benefits local people’.

The company will also deliver planning and a number of other smaller statutory functions for Barking and Dagenham council on a no-cost contract basis.

‘What is unique about us is our socially responsible model and our mix of functions and services,’ said Mr Hayes.

‘We are wholly-owned by the council and any profit we make will go back to the council for them to invest in services and the public good.’

And in terms of what Barking and Dagenham has to offer developers and investors, he said: ‘We’ve got the lowest land prices in London and we have 400 hectares of land ripe for regeneration.

‘We already have some fantastic developments going on in the borough like Barking Riverside and we are also looking to develop more waterside development along the River Roding.

‘It’s for each council to decide its own way forward,’ added Mr Hayes. ‘We believe Be First’s pioneering approach is best for Barking and Dagenham.’

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