Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell, who was born and bred in the borough, spoke to Sitematch about regeneration plans and working with developers to ensure Barking and Dagenham is a prosperous place in which to do business
Which projects are you most proud of being involved in?
It is very hard to choose just one, because they all have massive impact on the community in empowering people to have more choice and to allow us to have long-term sustainability for the borough’s future. The opportunity to be at the forefront of London’s growth is very exciting. We have 137 hectares of land that can be developed, which is an exciting prospect for any developer, but we are looking for developers that have a social responsibility. We have seen the mistakes that have happened in the rest of east London, where it has become unaffordable, and we don’t wish to make that same mistake. London is moving east and we’re happy to play our part with responsible partners.
What developments or enhancements would most benefit Barking and Dagenham?
Well, the projects that are in development – Barking Riverside, Beam Bark, and the major redevelopment of the town centre, will bring in benefits, particularly in terms of housing in the town centre. Crossrail 2 coming to the borough would have a massive impact for all six of the growth boroughs, and you can bet Barking and Dagenham will be the biggest champion of this because we’ll get the most out of it. The A13 proposals are also a massive project which will help the city to grow. It needs to be re-routed underground, which would give us another 39 hectares of land to regenerate. There’s talk of two bridges being built for east London, which we support. For the good of London, Barking and Dagenham really is the key to the jewel of the mega city which we know as London.
What is the council trying to bring to Barking and Dagenham?
We want to bring Barking and Dagenham’s prosperity, aspiration and heritage to the fore. Not many people know we were one of the richest boroughs for employment a number of decades ago. Not many people realise the historic links we have, such as the biggest fishing fleet in the country. What we want to now show is that we can be the cultural hub of east London, and for our young people – no matter what path they want to follow – we want to show that they all have the ability to do it here. We’re making Barking and Dagenham the new home for inspiring, creative people.
What makes developers good partners?
Social responsibility. People that are in it for the long term, that understand communities. We don’t want any fly-by-nights. We’ve seen what happens to communities when people come in and put in what they feel is needed, not what will best benefit the community. You see that in a number of developments around London – where what they’ve actually done is ostracise communities. We need to make sure we have a good balance of new and old in the borough.
When people find out your role as leader of the borough, what are the most common questions they ask?
How can we do business in Barking and Dagenham? And it’s a very simple answer. We as the council and me as the leader help facilitate what is best for the borough and its future. I do that by listening and working with the community and at the same time making sure not just to look at the interest of residents, but businesses too.
Which three people have inspired you the most – in politics, in your work or personal life?
My mum and dad and my wife on a personal level. On a borough level – Mary Wollstonecraft, the first recognised feminist, who was active in 1749 and Lord Denman, the man who got the anti-slavery deal through parliament. At an international level, Martin Luther King, and anyone else who was against apartheid or any other form of oppression.
For more exclusive interviews with senior officers and councillors from London's local authority's, visit the borough profiles on the Sitematch London website.
Barking and Dagenham council will attend the upcoming Sitematch London event on 10 February 2015. To secure your place contact Sophie Gosling on 020 7978 6840, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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