Regeneration project: Barking Town Centre

Barking has received £649,000 from Round One and £1.4m from Round Two of the Mayor’s Outer London Fund, matched by £580,000 from the council. The money has been invested in new public spaces, creative designs for shop shutters and signage, a community festival and a unique temporary bathhouse. Combining physical improvements with events and attractions has added to the dynamism of the area, and helped make Barking a place worth visiting. At the same time the borough has placed considerable emphasis on coordinating public realm projects and larger developments to ensure coherent long-term change.

View our images.

Animating places

Barking town centre was brought to life in Christmas 2011 by the Molten Festival, a week of performances, displays and street entertainment. A special installation by Creatmosphere occupied an unused ground floor unit in the town centre, with lighting designed in the shape of trees, and animated patterns and colours simulating a digital forest. In another part of town, an empty site hosted a temporary spa – the Barking Bathhouse, designed by Something & Son and inspired by Barking’s original historic bathhouse. Opened in the summer of 2012, the spa created space for new health and beauty businesses to flourish, and acted as precursor to the new leisure centre building on the same site.

Hosting events

The Molten Festival was a spectacular series of free events that attracted over 1,000 visitors to Barking in December 2011 and 2012. By focusing on the theme of light during the winter nights, the events brought a festive cheer to the town – encouraging people into public spaces and local shops. The festival had something for everyone, including music, theatre, fireworks and a lantern parade, all choreographed by Remarkable Productions. Other, smaller events have focused on working with local college students, giving them the chance to collaborate with designers on creative shop hoardings.

Public spaces

Round One of the Mayor’s Outer London Fund helped improve Barking station forecourt by reconfiguring bus lay-bys to create more accessible space for pedestrians with new lighting, paving, seating and signage, and a more attractive station approach. It also funded the design of Short Blue Place by Patel Taylor and muf architecture/art, a new public space to connect the high street and market with the new Technical Skills Academy and a supermarket and housing development, which was built with the second round of funding. At the nearby East Street, market stalls are being reconfigured to have a better relationship with shops, and new lighting and shelters are making the place a more attractive prospect for shoppers.

Building frontages

'Paint the Town' focussed on shop shutters in the centre of Barking, painting them with creative designs in bold colours to make the area more attractive, especially in the evening. The project targeted clusters of shops with colours from existing signage to create eye-catching designs. Local students helped create geometric patterns inspired by Islamic and African designs, guided by artist Zarah Hussain. Bread Collective developed a series of graphic phrases based on market tags and price stickers. Utility boxes and market bins were also painted, injecting bright colours into the previously grey streetscape. Some shops were also offered new signage and window graphics designed by We Are Laura. These small changes have improved Barking’s night-time economy and boosted shop owners’ sense of pride.

Supporting business

The Barking Bathhouse has provided training opportunities and space for new health and beauty businesses to flourish. Kick-start business grants encouraged four local therapists to take their first steps into the industry, guided by the support of a professional spa manager. The scheme also worked with Barking’s Job Shop to establish ten work placements. The spa attracted over 5,300 users during a three month temporary residency, helping secure its future in a new permanent building. It also attracted considerable media attention, boosting visitor numbers to the wider area and in turn increasing footfall to other businesses.

Transport

As well as improving pedestrian access to Barking station, the Mayor's investment has also enabled the redesign of the road space in and around this busy thoroughfare. The taxi-rank and bus lay-bys have both been reconfigured to make them more efficient and to free-up space for pedestrians. Short-term parking bays have also been added to make disabled access safer and easier, and the provision for cyclists has been increased. The station itself has been enhanced with step-free access to platforms and a smoother transition between different modes of transport.

Shaping development

Alongside offering funding, support from the Mayor has helped to ensure that new developments such as the supermarket-led housing development next to Short Blue Place and the Magistrates Court redevelopment on East Street make a positive contribution to the wider town centre. Shaping development relies on strong partnership working and clear long-term regeneration strategies, including complex land assembly. The Barking Code for the Public Realm designed by muf architecture/art ensures consistency across improvements and is recognised for the quality and coherence it has already brought to the town centre.

Preparing for change

The borough made plans with long term goals to make best use of round one of their Outer London Fund allocation, using it not only for events and public space improvements, but also to carry out feasibility studies and preparatory work to help secure future funding. In particular it focused on Short Blue Place, a much-needed public space that connects a supermarket, a residential development and the Technical Skills Academy. A feasibility study and detailed design for the space, which was in-line with The Barking Code for the Public Realm, meant that the borough was allocated significant investment in round two to realise the project.

Borough: Barking and Dagenham

Partners/client: LB Barking and Dagenham

Consultants: Patel Taylor, muf architecture/art, Lucienta Design, Bread Collective, Zarah Hussain, We Are Laura, Something & Son, The Klassnik Corporation, Remarkable Productions, Emergency Arts Exit et al, Creatmosphere, East Architecture Landscape Urban Design, Urban Space Management, Project Centre

Funding: Mayor of London £2m, LB Barking and Dagenham £580,000