Barking up the right tree

Barking, once a grim part of the East End, has grand ideas. September sees it launch as Europe's biggest new town and a family destination
From £244,995: three-bedroom homes at City East
From £244,995: three-bedroom homes at City East
A new riverside district with 10,800 new homes, billed as Europe's biggest residential scheme, is mostly "affordable", which seems unlikely in London where waterfront developments tend to be costly apartments for high earners already on the property ladder.

Unsurprisingly, Barking is the location of this new district. Why? Because it is the capital's cheapest borough - the raw end of old east London, beyond Canary Wharf and Stratford, where the industrial legacy remains of derelict factories, breakers' yards, freight depots, power stations and refineries clinging to the banks of the Thames.

Here, an ambitious regeneration project called Barking Riverside is under way. The first homes at the 350-acre site between the A12 and the Thames have been launched as a joint venture between developer Bellway and the Government's Homes and Communities Agency, which aims to transform the land into eight neighbourhoods, or "character areas", divided by green corridors - a small town with 25,000 residents. About 140 acres will be open space.

the area is likely to drop on to the radar of first-time buyers wanting an affordable address on the Tube map



A working electricity switching station occupies part of the site and will remain. But this eyesore and a string of pylons are being "designed out" by creative landscaping. A potential spin-off for the community is cheap energy captured from surplus power station steam dumped into the Thames.

City East is the first phase of 350 homes, due for completion next year. Prices start at £139,995 for one-bedroom apartments and rise to £244,995 for three-bedroom mid-terrace houses. Call the sales suite on 020 8594 9709.

Anne Mews: social housing in Barking and Degenham
Anne Mews: social housing in Barking and Degenham
Soil excavated during construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link is being used to raise flood defences. There will be a nature reserve bordering mudflats, cycle paths and riverside walks. Remarkably for a project of this scale, there was not a single planning objection.

Pioneer territory it may be and the demographics may deter some, but the area is likely to drop on to the radar of first-time buyers wanting an affordable address on the Tube map. It is also a chance for young families to put down roots in an area that will have new schools, GP surgeries, places of worship, community facilities and amenities and a new DLR station. Rivergate Centre, the first of these community hubs is set around a public square with a clocktower.

The local council is keen to promote aspirational private housing in order to tempt young professionals to move there. Barking is nine miles from Charing Cross in travel Zone 4 (on the District line) plus there are 15-minute Overground train links to Canary Wharf and Stratford.

About 80 per cent of the housing stock is public-sector but there is a 10-year strategy to cut this to 50 per cent. Development sites are being sold (one to Countryside Properties, with plans for 950 new homes). Big council estates are being demolished or refurbished and shared ownership introduced.

Part of the wider regeneration strategy is to create better links between Barking Riverside and the town centre, barely a mile away. Barking Central is an award-winning 500-home scheme, an integral part of a new town hall square, and one of the Mayor's "top 100 public spaces".

Revamped glamour: Academy Central is in an art deco former college
Revamped glamour: Academy Central is in an art deco former college
Colourful and contemporary, the main building has a colonnaded entrance with flats on the upper floors above a library, gallery space and cafe, while the Lemonade Building, which occupies the site of the former R Whites factory, is a jazzy-looking 17-storey tower. Resales from £145,000. Call Midas Estates on 0844 3579490.

The river Roding, once home to a thriving fishing fleet, runs through Barking. The council's plan is to convert a complex of former mills and malthouses into flats, shops, work studios and restaurants.

Academy Central is on the leafier, more suburban edge of the town. Here a handsome art deco former college has been split into 106 apartments, while new homes are being built in the grounds. Prices from £128,995. Call Taylor Wimpey on 0845 474 5609.

L&Q housing association has 40 apartments at the development available under its "UptoYou" affordable scheme, which allows people to rent initially and buy at a later date, either outright or on a shared-ownership basis. Contact 0844 406 9800.



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