Stop Letting Private Developers Off the Hook

A concerning precedent has been set in recent months by Havering Council’s Planning Department, which arguably counteracts attempts to tackle the housing crisis for local people. In October the CPA studios development in Romford came to my attention, where IPE North Street Ltd proposed to pay £693,936 in lieu of delivering five social rent homes on the 66-unit site. On the face of it this money can be used to deliver those properties as part of another project, but the real issue here is it provides a ‘get out of jail free’ card for any developer looking to avoid delivering 35% affordable units, passing the buck onto the authority. This move will lead to both a decline in homes local people can afford and will undermine social cohesion by creating ‘exclusive’ estates.

Whilst I always champion council housing at traditional low rents, I also understand the need for mixed tenancies as well. The worrying trend in Havering is counter-productive to both and hands power to private developers. Housing developments, if properly planned, rarely lose money. Local authorities are therefore in a position of strength, as primary landowners, to ensure developers are building homes that residents can afford.

The reality is that most people on housing waiting lists simply cannot afford the standardised “affordable” option which comes in at 80% of market rents, and the new fad of shared-ownership as an “affordable” option leaves people, primarily young people, trapped.

Councils should correlate affordability to average local wage levels, ensuring that “affordable” means no more than a third of the average local income on a borough by borough basis.

We’ll be told that this isn’t viable. However, the truth of the matter is that if the political will is there it can be done. It’s time to challenge developers’ notion of viability, designed to maximise their profits at the expense of the housing needs of local families. Basing a development on a 15–35-year return hikes the rents up and is contrary to the interests of millions across the country, pushing many in areas like Romford further away from the security of a home.

The Becontree Estate in Dagenham was built 100 years ago, it remains the most ambitious and largest council housing scheme in the United Kingdom. It was built on a 45-year return model, provided good quality family homes with supporting social infrastructure, and has paid for itself over and above. Whilst an early 20th Century renaissance isn’t the answer, we can learn a lot about sustainable place making from the Becontree Estate.

Stop letting private developers off the hook, start holding them to account. Romford deserves a better future and neither private nor so called “affordable” housing is the answer that young people, families, and all those in between desperately need.

Armed Forces Day – A Better Future for Service Personnel and Veterans

Our Armed Forces are essential to our national defence, resilience, and our global obligations. From operations abroad which keep us safe to supporting local communities throughout the pandemic, dedicated service personnel deserve our thanks.

This Saturday is Armed Forces Day, which is a great opportunity to show our appreciation and raise awareness of the Armed Forces and our veterans. However, after over a decade of Conservative cuts to our military, simply raising a flag just isn’t good enough.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have cut the Army to its smallest size in 300 years. The Government has cut the full-time strength of our Armed Forces by over 40,000 servicemen and women. One in five of our ships have been removed from the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, and more than 200 aircraft have been taken out of active RAF service since 2017.

The Conservatives have successfully peddled the myth that they are the party of the Forces, but their actions tell a different story. They are responsible for systematically dismantling our military and only the Labour Party has a plan to support both serving personnel and our veterans. There are around 7,000 veterans living in Barking and Dagenham, and 9,000 in Havering – the sixth highest veteran population in London.

In Dagenham, where we have a Labour MP and a Labour council, veterans get support with housing, local business are signed up to a commercial charter which guarantees an interview for unemployed veterans, they get free access to leisure facilities, and much more to help with the transition back into civilian life.

In Havering, where we have a history of Tory control (recently taken by Independents), with two Conservative MPs, veterans get a very different experience. The council refers them to external organisations for support and has failed to renew its 2012 commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant – a social pact that Labour in Parliament are pressing to be enshrined into law.

Over the past 12 months Labour has been calling on Ministers to halt their proposals to cut yet another 10,000 troops from the army. In 2021 Labour MPs mounted an ongoing campaign to amend the Armed Forces Bill, promoting a new duty of care to allow personnel to receive better legal, welfare, employment, and housing support.

We have a proud service history across Dagenham and Rainham, and as we thank the Armed Forces community this weekend, we must also look to our neighbours in Romford and Hornchurch & Upminster.

Active servicemen and women, their families, and our veterans desperately need Labour MPs who will fight for them and deliver a better future in Havering.

LBBD Youth Climate Summit 2022

On Monday 14 March 180 young people from across 31 schools came together at Jo Richardson Community School to participate in Barking and Dagenham’s first Youth Climate Summit. Facilitated by Votes for Schools, E.on, and Connected Kerb, it was a chance for young people to feed into the council’s Zero-Carbon Roadmap. Martin Offiah MBE, Brand Ambassador for Connected Kerb and British sporting hero was the special guest who spoke passionately about his journey and why taking action to protect the environment is so important, particularly for the next generation.

As the Member Champion for Climate Change in Barking and Dagenham, I provided some closing remarks at the end of the day.

The full text can be found below.


My name is Councillor Andrew Achilleos, and I am the Member champion for Climate Change here in our borough.

Lots of people see climate change as a distant threat, something that doesn’t affect them. People think about deforestation in South America, or wildfires in Greece.

Last year a tornado ripped through the streets of Barking and there are increasing flood risks in areas like ours that have a high concentration of waterways. Climate change is happening here and now.

If we want to avert a climate disaster it will take enthusiastic young people like you, who are passionate about the environment and want to make the world a better, safer, and more sustainable place to live.

It’s my job to champion your ideas, and to advise the council leadership.

I was interested to hear your thoughts on our priorities, and I’ve picked out one in particular regarding waste and recycling. Barking and Dagenham currently recycles only 25% of its waste, the lowest rate in London. We must do better, and we will.

I agree with you that 35% by 2030 is too low a target, and I’ll be taking this back to the council for discussion as we further develop our plans.

You will be pleased to know that we are already working incredibly hard to tackle climate change in Barking and Dagenham.

  • We’re using new technology to properly insulate our oldest homes, because poorly insulated housing is responsible for around 30% of our carbon emissions.
  • We’re also helping people switch to renewable energy, investing in solar and heat pump technology.
  • We’re encouraging people to drive electric vehicles and working with Connected Kerb, we are installing 250 charge points this year, and 2000 by 2026.
  • We are also working hard to educate our residents to reduce, reuse and recycle. A big part of what we are trying to do is change people’s behaviour, encouraging residents to make responsible choices.
  • In 2019 we pledged to start phasing out single use plastics from our organisation, and we’re now looking at ways we can use recycled materials like plastics in the future, to develop new infrastructure such as roads and footpaths.
  • And we are planting thousands of trees across the borough, not only in our parks but on our streets and outside your schools to improve air quality.
  • Last year we made a pledge to double our canopy cover by 2040and we’re already off to a great start with the new Forest of Thanks in Parsloes Park where 40,000 trees have now been planted by volunteers – boosting biodiversity, storing carbon and rainwater, and improving the air we breathe.

In the future we want people to think of Barking and Dagenham as the Green Capital of the Capital.

This is just the beginning of our journey to net-zero, there is a lot of work to do, but it starts here, with you, and with us.

We can avoid a climate crisis, but only if we work together as a community.

Thank you.


Promoting Active Travel in Barking and Dagenham

Barking and Dagenham Council in association with Vandome Cycles, Sustrans and Be First offer a fantastic range of cycle training options across the borough for children and adults. Whether residents are new to cycling, or just want to brush up on their skills. Training is free and available to anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough.

The council is currently developing a new Walking and Cycling Strategy and steering committee member Councillor Andrew Achilleos, the Member Champion for Climate Change, has been looking at ways to encourage residents to make shorter journeys on foot or by bike.

Cllr Achilleos said: “We know that travelling from one side of the borough to another, or from somewhere like Marks Gate to Dagenham East is difficult without a car. However, research shows that a high percentage of people are still driving five minutes up the road for a pint of milk.

“That’s why we are trying to make it more appealing and easier for residents to walk or cycle short distances by improving existing cycle networks, creating new ones, and changing the character of our streets. The Walking and Cycling Strategy is about creating routes that work for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to better connect growth areas and existing communities across the borough.”

Active travel has a number of benefits, not least reducing emissions and helping to keep people fit and healthy. During a recent meeting it came to light that Councillor Achilleos could not ride a bike, so on Thursday 15 July he met up with cycle instructors from Vandome Cycles for some training.

Cllr Achilleos explained: “I like to practice what I preach and if I can pick up cycling at 34, anyone can do it. When I got on the bike it was a case of finding the confidence in myself to stay upright, once I had that it was a fun experience. Richard from Vandome Cycles was a great instructor and I would encourage residents of all ages to book in on a training course during the summer!”

Sessions are held from 4pm to 8pm on Wednesdays at Jim Peters Stadium in Mayesbrook Park. You can receive one-to-one training from a qualified instructor in the following:

  • Basic cycle skills: Practice off-road and learn the basics. Improve your skills to cycle confidently through your local area.
  • Urban cycle skills: Practice off-road and then move on to quiet roads to refresh your cycling technique.
  • Advanced cycle skills: Learn how to improve your cycle skills at complex junctions, in heavy traffic or at night.

Why not arrange your first session for free today?

Contact Vandome Cycles by email: or call 020 8220 3075.

Member Champion for Climate Change Update

The following update was delivered at Full Assembly on 30 September 2020.

Climate change and wider environmental issues such as biodiversity loss and air quality are my passions, and in the short space of four months I have already started to work on some exciting projects across the borough, which I look forward to updating colleagues on throughout the coming year as things take shape.

Often when people think of climate change and the environment, they think of fossil fuels, trees, wildlife, pollinators etc. all crucial things to consider, but actually it goes wider and is more deep rooted into our everyday lives than that.

It’s the developments we build, it’s the products we buy, the way we travel and the things we eat.

Historically when people think of Barking and Dagenham they think of Ford and industry, but in the future, I want to see the Leader’s vision realised where our borough is seen as ‘the green capital of the capital’.

This isn’t without it’s challenges.

Something which is often missing from the climate change debate is how its impacts will disproportionately affect traditional working class communities such as those in Barking and Dagenham,

Yet our communities are often hard pushed to adapt, especially after a decade of Tory cuts to local government budgets, public spending, and support for those that need it most.

It’s hard to shop ethically when you’re trying to provide for your family on a shoestring, and it’s hard to justify and find the time to visit Britain’s national parks with so many other pressures.

That is why as a local authority we have to look at an ethos from the past to improve our future – before the 1840’s there were no public parks in Britain. The Victorians introduced the idea of bringing the countryside to the city – encouraging communities to enjoy and feel a sense of ownership over the outdoors.

In the coming months I will be working on a number of comms projects that seek to engage and empower our residents to explore and enjoy our parks and open spaces. I have also been in touch with some of our neighbours to look at best practice on how we establish active ‘friends groups’ which will seek to educate and instil in our residents a greater sense of ownership over their local parks and nature reserves.

In addition to this I am liaising with colleagues in BeFirst about increased cycle infrastructure. Making the most of new funding streams available due to the pandemic. Trying to pull something positive out of these difficult times.

I’ve been building relationships with our Ranger Service, horticultural teams and external partners to help increase canopy cover which will deliver a wide range of benefits to our residents.

Next month I’ll be on site with the cosy homes team, safety guidelines permitting, to see the invaluable work they are doing to retrofit and insulate homes across the borough – as around 30-40% of carbon emissions come from the built environment nationally.

Lots of this work has already been set in motion by Cllrs Ashraf and Geddes – for example the Gascoigne regeneration project is now seen as a benchmark for sustainable development, and the Wild and Free in LBBD project has already seen local families venturing into our parks in greater numbers.

With that – I’m really excited to see what achievements we can make together in the coming year.

Thank you.