Spotlight: Working together to deliver healthy placemaking

This month’s Spotlight is a guest blog from Naomi Pomfret, Planning Policy Manager at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham; Dr Fiona Wright, Consultant in Public Health; and John Craig, Care City Chief Executive.


It is easy to say that better collaboration leads to better outcomes and that a better environment improves health. But can we deliver these outcomes in practice?

The work taking place between the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD), Care City and Barking Riverside Limited on Barking Riverside Healthy New Town is beginning to show that we can.

Barking and Dagenham is a place with bold regeneration ambitions. The borough is poised for significant growth, with capacity for 50,000 new homes and potential to deliver 20,000 new jobs by 2035. However, it is a borough of challenges. It currently has poor health and social outcomes and is one of the most deprived in England and Wales, with the highest rates of childhood obesity.

Large-scale growth must not only establish attractive and liveable neighbourhoods for new residents, but must improve the lives of existing residents. ‘No-one left behind: in pursuit of growth for everyone’ was recognised as an underlying principle in Barking and Dagenham’s Independent Growth Commission Report (2016) and is the core ambition of the borough’s emerging Local Plan.


Barking Riverside Healthy New Town

Barking Riverside is one of Europe’s largest brownfield sites. It’s due to benefit from the extension of the London Overground in 2021 and once completed will deliver 10,800 homes. In February 2016, NHS England selected Barking Riverside as one of its 10 Healthy New Towns and the only one in London.

The Healthy New Towns (HNT) programme is part of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View to scale up prevention and new models of care. It encourages redesigning local health and care services and taking a cutting-edge approach to improving the health, wellbeing and independence of communities, thus contributing to the long term financial security of the NHS.

The vision for Barking Riverside HNT is “a place which is healthy for all who live and work in and around the area” – irrespective of age, ability, gender, ethnicity or social and economic background. We want Barking Riverside to be a destination for living, work and recreation and have identified five priorities for the Healthy New Town Programme:

  • Future health and care, ensuring that prevention and early intervention is at the heart of innovative, integrated service provision
  • A connected community in which the new and existing communities of Barking Riverside and its surrounding areas are linked physically, socially and economically
  • A place which meets and adapts to people’s needs and actively promotes lifelong health
  • A place which promotes and enables a healthy mind and body
  • A sense of place with an inspiring built and natural environment which enhances wellbeing
Housing at Barking Riverside, which won Housing Design Awards in 2010 and 2013
Housing at Barking Riverside, which won Housing Design Awards in 2010 and 2013


Care City: Working together to deliver Barking Riverside HNT

Care City was founded in 2016 by North East London NHS Foundation Trust and LBBD, with a vision to deliver measurable improvements in health and to act as a catalyst for regenerating one of London’s most deprived communities. But the remit isn’t just about healthcare: Care City focuses on initiatives that improve wellbeing, connected communities and the built environment.

Central to achieving this is a commitment to work in partnership with the local community to ensure that research, innovation and education is driven by their needs.​


Community matters

A four-month community engagement project ending in February 2017 focussed on what the residents of Barking Riverside do to feel good and what they think is missing from the local area to help them be healthy and happy. It gave us an opportunity to increase community awareness of the HNT initiative; engage a diverse range of community stakeholders in shaping the vision for a healthy Barking Riverside; and gather ideas to help deliver this vision in partnership with others.

Residents and local businesses were especially interested in establishing and running communications vehicles to keep each other better informed of what is going on locally. We‘ve committed to helping them with this, including building their skills so that they can, for example, publish newsletters or design digital communications.

Other initiatives span our priority themes outlined above, such as ‘Citizen Science’ research by UCL’s Nick Tyler looking at links between physical activity, design of the built environment and sense of place as well as community activities to generate evidence about the contribution of urban ‘blue space’ (i.e. waterways) to physical and mental wellbeing.

Once completed, Barking Riverside will be managed by the Community Interest Company (CIC) that currently includes Barking Riverside Limited, L+Q, LBBD, George Carey Primary School, residents and other observatory bodies or organisations, enabling priorities and decisions to be driven by the community.

Residents participate in Feel Good Friday to share what they do to feel good and participate in cooking and fitness classes
Residents participate in Feel Good Friday to share what they do to feel good and participate in cooking and fitness classes


Progress to date

An important first step has been the development of 10 Healthy New Town Planning Principles, derived from a review of evidence and good practice. These are now central to Section 106 and will be taken through to the Local Plan, applying to future sites coming forward. Other HNTs have adopted or adapted the 10 Principles, highlighting their value as best practice.

In addition to ongoing collaboration, partners from the NHS, public health, regeneration, planning and development came together in a workshop in March 2017 to share priorities and perspectives and, importantly, help each other understand our respective drivers and jargon. Among other things, this led to agreement to hold a health-focused event to inform emerging Sub Framework Plans in Barking Riverside and the suggestion to include health indicators among the KPIs of LBBD’s new regeneration body, Be First.

The idea is not just to create a healthy new town for residents, visitors and workers of Barking Riverside but to use the experience to inform other growth areas, sharing best practice and lessons learned to benefit future developments – within Barking and Dagenham, throughout London and beyond.


Help us succeed

We are still working on how to measure impact. Should the focus be on health outcomes, wider determinants of health, social value creation or evaluating the success of specific intervention? In terms of the impact of sense of place on health and wellbeing, should we measure anything quantitative at all? What are your thoughts? Please do let us know by emailing us at​.


Find out more about Barking Riverside Healthy New Town here.

Photos courtesy Barking Riverside Limited & Jimmy Lee.