* UPDATE January 2017: Now you can send a parcel from Barking by train all the way to Beijing and perhaps one day yourself travel to the Chinese capital
FED UP WITH the grotesquely high office rentals and unaffordable flat leaseholds of Hackney?
Could the answer be Barking, a dreary suburb that was once a byword for drabness and, well, out east… uhm, somewhere.
Little else was known, except that it gave the world pop-folkie Billy Bragg and was once disturbingly fond of the ideologically (idiotillogically?) opposed National Front, a now-decrepit movement that was as nasty as its name suggests.
The suburb is vigorously trying to update its image by styling itself Barking Riverside as it promotes a planned development to be fronted, in a way that supposedly evokes Barcelona, by a promenade, bars, restaurants and a marina with boats to zoom commuters into central London in half an hour.
It’s just what will appeal, Barking believes, to the hard-working creatives who have given Hackney a rapid social and commercial makeover.
Showing more bluster than any public official since Boris Johnson when, in passable French, he teased a Parisian interviewer that Stratford’s helter-skelter thingie was superior to the Eiffel Tower, a Barking council press officer said the borough was home to “a thriving film industry” and “an arts community”.
It all made the borough an “affordable alternative to the expensive East End areas such as Shoreditch and Dalston”.
So far as can be established, the publicist’s tongue was far from his/her cheek. And, the flack added, “we are just 15 minutes from the City,” which could be true if you were doing the 14km toLiverpool Street in a co-operative taxi early on a Sunday morning. On a weekday it takes a little longer.
Eight trains an hour are timetabled to roll from Barking, quite a distance away, into Fenchurch Street overground station in a bearable 25 minutes. The Barking Riverside railway line and station have yet to be built. Given Tory fondness for the austerity word whenever public benefit is mentioned, the line may never be built.
Designated a healthy new town by NHS England, Barking will have within a few years, the council hopes:
* 10,800 homes on brownfield land for an estimated 26,000 people;
* wildlife reserves, wetlands and parks;
* boulevards and traffic-free streets for walking and cycling.
Darren Rodwell, the somehow aptly named leader of the majority Labour council, said Barking Riverside would “transform this stretch of the river just a few miles upstream [downstream, surely?] from central London…
“Along with our drive to be at the forefront of London home-building, we are also looking to create at least 10,000 new jobs — and not low-skilled or low-paid. He ended his spiel impressively with “We have higher aspirations for our residents”.
Houses in Barking and Dagenham lack the charm of inner London Georgian and Victorian houses and the style of inner London’s modern developments. But the prices! Terrace houses there last year sold on average for just below £300,000 and flats for about £100,000 less.
Excited? If so, a prime factor is whether you think you are being hyped by the council (clue: y*s). And whether leaving the European Union will bring all the woes forecast by a plethora of preening experts and worried politicians.
Such hiccups could curtail segments of the proposal, eg, the riverboat and the A13 “flyunder” tunnel.
Hamish Scott 140816
* Pictures courtesy of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands Architects. © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com, and all for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats. Photographs on this page © David.Altheer [at] gmail.com, and all for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. A link in no way expresses support for any site