Former civil service supremo says new regen giant will deliver eastern promise

Lord Bob Kerslake has been appointed as Chair of the Board of Be First, which will spearhead Barking and Dagenham Council’s ambition to be the first choice for aspirational Londoners to find a home in the capital’s out of reach housing market.

Lord Kerslake, who was Head of  the Civil Service from 2012 to 2014, was formally appointed to head the new commercial company, which has been described as a regeneration giant by Barking and Dagenham Council leader, Cllr Darren Rodwell.

Speaking at the international property conference, MIPIM, Cllr Rodwell said: “Lord Kerslake was a giant in central and local government and an expert in housing and now he will be chairing what will be regen giant.

“Our borough is already renowned as one of London’s premier growth areas, with hugely exciting developments such as Barking Riverside and our plans for Made In Dagenham studios.

“But bringing in Lord Kerslake and creating Be First will put rocket boosters on our drive to make Barking and Dagenham a magnet for tens of thousands of affordable quality homes and well paid jobs for ordinary, aspirational Londoners.”

Lord Kerslake said: “Barking and Dagenham is already known as one of the capital’s hottest investment areas and promises huge opportunities for further growth.

“I am hugely looking forward to helping Darren making sure this eastern promise is delivered for the benefit of all residents.”

Be First, which will be operational from the Autumn, and will be wholly owned by Barking and Dagenham Council.

Its mission will be to build on and accelerate the council’s success in securing investment and the company will have to meet ambitious targets for new homes, better infrastructure and jobs.

It’s expected to attract new investment and funding to the borough as well as to invest land and cash directly to generate income and to shape development for local people.

Though the company will be commercially driven, it will be wholly owned by the council – with TfL and the GLA on the Board – and managed by regeneration experts from the private and public sector.

Though the council will continue to make final decisions on planning applications and to approve strategic plans and policies, the company will offer a range of strategic services, pre-planning services and project delivery as well as setting up joint ventures and other special purpose companies to deliver regeneration.

Appointments to the Board of Be First are expected to be completed by the summer of 2017 and recruitment of a chief executive is expected by May.  The council’s existing regeneration, planning and capital delivery staff will transfer to the new organisation under the Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment regulations, during the summer.  The company is expected to start trading in October 2017.