High quality 100% affordable rental housing development by Morris + Company given green light

A modern mews of 56 high-quality affordable rental homes in Barking and Dagenham, designed by Morris + Company for developer BeFirst, has been given planning permission via virtual committee. The homes are designed for residents ranging from single occupants to couples and families, to create a balanced new community, along a new, intimate mews street, within the wider Becontree estate. Sixteen of the homes will be London Affordable Rent homes; a low-cost rental rate set by the Greater London Authority.

As well as providing new housing for the borough, the new development on the corner of Woodward Road and Stamford Road, a short walk from Becontree Station, includes the refurbishment and reinstatement of the former Barking Library building as a community centre, and the creation of a brand new multi-use community building, adjacent. The low-rise streetscape has been carefully and contextually designed to deliver high quality architectural accommodation and community facilities to London’s growing community of long-term renters.

The mews works within the unique spatial planning characteristics of the Becontree Estate, while offering a modern housing typology that reinterprets the estate’s architectural language. The new street consists of one- to three-storey mews houses and three- to four-storey apartment blocks, each with its own front door entrance, to encourage social interactions. A carefully designed range of open spaces will be interspersed throughout, ranging from private gardens, balconies and terraces, to shared communal spaces for larger gatherings with civic frontages, to encourage a sense of communality amongst both neighbours and the wider community.

Miranda MacLaren, Director at Morris + Company comments: “What struck us on this project was the Becontree residents’ appreciation that affordable housing was urgently needed for their community. The not-in-my-back-yard attitude was not found here, and we’re immensely proud that we’ve been able to create resilient housing that is an extension of the character and qualities of this community.”

Each home is designed with spatial considerations in mind for quality of living, including large windows, high ceilings, natural ventilation, views to trees and green spaces, and acoustic insulation and visual shielding to preserve privacy between neighbours. In terms of amenity, simple and robust well-equipped kitchens are partnered with functional storage and opportunities for flexible use of space, and each residence, regardless of level, features access to outdoor space.

In response to sunlight considerations, the massing of the proposed buildings has been carefully articulated. The street will be lined by three-storey terraced houses, and features houses and two low-rise apartment blocks running parallel, east-to-west, plus a larger apartment block running along the west-side of the site. First-floor roof terraces will split the buildings, allowing additional sunlight into the street, while at street level projecting canopied entrances and brick planters will create shade, and privacy, amongst neighbours.

In response to the architectural language and the materiality of the Becontree Estate, the development will feature pitched roofs, gables and dormers, with a coherent palette of reddish brickwork, clay tiles, precast concrete, powder-coated metalwork and painted timber. The metalwork will be coloured in a complementary hue to the reddish brickwork and feature a common ribbon-like appearance across balustrades, brise soleil and metalwork doors. The quiet and considered form of the buildings will be enlivened with a playful use of colours, within the brickwork and the brick bonds, to create a rich and engaging streetscape.

Jacob Willson, Head of Design at Be First, said: “Morris and Company has produced an outstanding development which is in keeping with Barking and Dagenham’s proud tradition of building quality affordable housing for ordinary working Londoners.

“The design came from working closely with residents and takes its cues from the cottage estate style of the pioneering Becontree Estate within which the development is located.”

The site wraps around the rear of the former Barking Library building, and the new community centre next to it will feature a modest lightwell, designed to reference its former clock tower, and eaves designed to complement the form and scale of the newly refurbished building. Newly created public entrances, on Woodward Road and Stamford Road, will connect the mews via new, wide shared-surface streets, for vehicles and pedestrians. The U-shaped plot was formerly occupied by garages, two disused community halls and a single residential property.

Morris + Company has a strong ambition to integrate passive principles into the fabric and architecture of the mews, to reduce energy consumption and improve the performance of the buildings, and the myriad outdoor spaces are designed to enhance biodiversity throughout the scheme. The architects believe the high-quality design of the homes and environments will reduce management costs by engendering pride, and fostering stewardship, amongst residents, and the community at large.