Last week the Government set out in the Queen’s Speech its programme for the coming year. In the debate that followed I expressed my anger and frustration that once again the needs of Barking and Dagenham have been overlooked.
Our needs are great. During my 20 years as your Member of Parliament, we have seen the Borough grow and change. In 2010 people said a resounding ‘no’ to the attempt by the BNP to exploit people’s legitimate concerns and fears about migration. But those concerns remain.
We all want a community where people are at ease with one another and everyone feels they are treated fairly.That requires Government to act to address people’s needs, particularly the need for a decent home at a price they can afford. Our need for more homes has gone beyond crisis point. And our population is set to grow by another 50,000 over the next decade.
That is why the current situation with Barking Riverside is so scandalous. Since 2008, there has been planning permission for almost 11,000 homes on the site, yet so far only 360 homes have been completed, with another 300 under construction. I was astounded to discover that at the current rate of building it will take over 100 years to complete the new homes.
The development cannot move forward until the necessary transport links are in place to support the new housing. We were supposed to get a DLR extension running through Barking Riverside. This was scrapped by Boris Johnson when he became Mayor in 2008, on the grounds of cost. More recently we have been lobbying for the extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking line to Barking Riverside. This was name-dropped in the Budget but no action has been taken and no money committed. The Government is spending £50 billion on HS2 but cannot spare the £180 million it would cost to extend the Gospel Oak line.
We cannot wait another 10 years, let alone 100. Over the next year I will be fighting hard to finally secure the resources need to ensure local people can access the decent, affordable home to which everyone is entitled.