Barking is a town with a long history and bright future with east London’s largest single regeneration project — Barking Riverside — now steaming ahead on a large brownfield riverside site south of the town centre.
This massive 15-year project will deliver 10,800 new homes housing 29,000 people on a former power station site on a two-kilometre stretch of the River Thames.
Launching the new master plan this summer, local council leader Darren Rodwell compared the project to Barcelona and other cities around the world that have developed old wharves and vacant harbours into vibrant waterfront attractions.
The vision for what is effectively a new town includes an extension of the Overground from Barking to the riverfront, a promenade, bars, restaurants, public squares, wildlife reserves and a marina with a riverboat service to and from London.
Estate agent Kay Nevill from the local branch of Sandra Davidson describes Barking Riverside as the Essex equivalent of London’s Docklands.
She has worked in the area for 22 years and says Barking is increasingly attracting first-time buyers from east London who come in search of affordable homes and a quick commute to the City on the A13 or by train to Fenchurch Street station.
Estate agent Matt Cobb from Currell says the average house price in the borough of Barking & Dagenham is £276,145, just 57 per cent of the average London house price of £484,716. “Barking appeals to people on average incomes who can afford to rent and buy here, something which is increasingly rare across London.”
Barking is 10 miles east of central London with Ilford to the north, Dagenham to the east, the Thames to the south and Stratford, East and West Ham to the west.
Barking has a good supply of 1930s semi-detached and terrace houses. The most desirable are on the Leftley Estate between Barking and Upney stations but nearly as popular and closer to the town centre is the Faircross Estate.
There are modern flats in the much-photographed regenerated town centre with its new square in front of the town hall and its blocks of flats with brightly coloured balconies. ~
Academy Central is a new development of nearly 1,000 new homes on a former University of East London site between Lodge Avenue and Longbridge Road on the edge of Mayesbrook Park.
Hart Place (020 8591 7563) in Bevan Avenue is an Abbey New Homes development of 24 three- and four-bedroom houses; prices start at £484,995 and the development will complete next spring.
Rivermill Lofts (01279 873 300), a Weston Homes development of 118 one- and two-bedroom flats overlooking the River Roding in Abbey Road, launches in the middle of next year.
Help to Buy is available at Barking Riverside where Bellway is selling off-plan one-, two- and three-bedroom flats at Caspian Quarter (020 8594 9709) off Galleons Drive. One-bedroom flats start at £237,995; two-bedroom flats at £281,995 and three-bedroom flats at £349,995.
Weavers Quarter (weaversquarter.co.uk; 020 8227 3904) is the regeneration of the Gascoigne Estate on the edge of the town centre. Housing association East Thames will be building 1,575 new homes, two new schools, a community centre and a new public square linking the estate with the town centre.
The first phase designed by Levitt Bernstein and Allies & Morrison, will have 421 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom homes of which 221 will be for shared ownership.
Kay Nevill says young city workers like to rent the town centre flats. Barking has a large East European community and many rent houses in the area.
For many families Barking is a stagepost on the way to Buckhurst Hill, Loughton and Epping, but with so much regeneration going on this could change.
IG11 is the Barking postcode although on its western edge it does spill over into E6, the East Ham postcode.
Look between Westrow Drive and Cavendish Gardens on the Leftley Estate for four- and five-bedroom 1930s family houses close to the popular Barking Abbey comprehensive school.
Up and coming
Early residents at Barking Riverside felt stranded in a no man’s land and were frustrated by the slow pace of development. However, with a new developer, housing association L&Q, on board and a new master plan there is now a fresh sense of urgency, and L&Q has undertaken to build 600 homes a year.
Barking has fast trains to Fenchurch Street which take between 15 and 20 minutes. It is also on the District and Hammersmith & City Underground lines and the Barking to Gospel Oak Overground line. Upney is on the District Line.
Both stations are in Zone 4 and an annual season ticket to Zone 1 costs £1,860.
Barking and Dagenham (Labour-controlled); Band D Council tax in 2016/2017: £1,354.03.
Shops and restaurants
Barking’s tired Vicarage Field shopping centre is set for redevelopment. Property company Benson Elliot, who bought the site last year, has big plans to rip the place apart and build a new shopping centre combining it with 850 new homes in five new tower blocks, one 36 storeys tall.
Planning permission has been applied for and a decision is expected before Christmas.
Barking has a busy general market that is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
There is an Asda superstore but the choice of stores is limited to the likes of Wilko and Peacocks.
The independent coffee shop revolution has not yet arrived in Barking but there is a popular steak house Cristina’s.
There are gardens around the ruined abbey in the town centre. Barking Park, which opened in 1898, has a boating lake, playing fields, a bowling green and café. Mayesbrook Park has a much wilder feel with two lakes, a nature reserve, sports pitches and an adventure playground.
Leisure and the arts
Barking’s own theatre expects to reopen at the beginning of November following a fire; it puts on a mixed bag of drama, variety, comedy, dance and music. Showcase is a 14-screen multiplex in Jenkins Lane.
Barking has its own cultural quarter between Abbey Road and the River Roding where former industrial buildings have been converted into studio spaces.
The Boathouse Café between the Granary and the Malthouse is a lovely little café with a raised terrace overlooking the river.
Eastbury Manor is an Elizabeth house in Eastbury Square surrounded by suburban housing; it is owned by the National Trust.
The Abbey Leisure Centre in Bobby Moore Way is the local council-owned swimming pool.
Barking parents rely on their local state schools, a number of which offer combined primary and secondary schools.
The following state primary schools are judged to be “good” by the Government’s education watchdog Ofsted: St Margaret’s CofE in North Street; Gascoigne in Gascoigne Road; Northbury in Northbury Close; Ripple in Suffolk Road; Nelson in Napier Road; Manor Infants and Manor Juniors in Sandringham Road; George Carey in The Rivergate Centre at Barking Riverside; Altmore in Altmore Avenue; Vicarage in Vicarage Lane; and Latham Juniors in Latham Road.
The one “outstanding” primary school is Thames View Infants in Bastable Avenue; however, the Junior school is in special measures.
Plashet (girls, ages 11 to 16) in Plashet Grove is judged to be “outstanding”; the other state comprehensives are judged to be “good” including the popular Barking Abbey (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Sandringham Road and Riverside in Thames Road, which opened in 2013 and gets its new school building next year.
Greatfields (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) is a new Free School in Gascoigne Road that opened in September. The all-through schools are Langdon (co-ed, ages three to 16) in Sussex Road; Eastbury (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Hulse Avenue, recently named the country’s kindest school; and Loxford (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Loxford Avenue in Ilford.