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Inside Thames Life: What would it take to stay here?

Mondays at Thames Life tend to be about the big introspective questions. Of course, we do the usual “how was the weekend” conversation but we often create the space for reflecting on our place in the community. I’ll blame it on our CEO, Matt.

Recently, Matt asked me how I feel as a local resident about the development happening around me. I paused for a few moments and just bluntly stated that I didn’t feel like it really mattered. Housing units being doubled felt like a definitive plan that I wouldn’t be able to influence. Sure, I could dance around polite conversations at consultations but the truth is that I feel like my voice doesn’t really matter. Profits speak louder and the interests of investors would most certainly take priority over my desire for a medium to low-density town.

I have lived in Barking Riverside for 5 years now, having now had two young children. As a family we’re deciding on the long-term. So, what would it take for us to want to stay here? To celebrate a recent milestone birthday, I headed to Kenya and came across a number of British expats and a few wants kept coming up: affordability, and an abundance of space. I want to feel inspired by where I live. For it to be a reflection of my values and be a positive thread in the upbringing of my children. For it to be financially attainable, allowing me the flexibility to afford more time for the things that really matter. I want a feeling of community without my space feeling overcrowded. To be able to go for walks and get lost in nature but have the familiar face at the local for a quick chat. A slower more thoughtful pace of life. Everyone wants the ability to enjoy life uninterrupted.

In my present context, if my voice did matter, I would say those things. I would humanise the masterplan and ask those who live elsewhere but work in Barking why they live in other parts of London and what keeps them there? Is it the Victorian style housing, or the trendy bakeries, is it the parks or nature reserves in walking distance. That ‘village green’ suburban feel. During the pandemic, Zoom offered us a window into each other’s homes and some of us transported ourselves to beach backgrounds, but I always remembered those who were proud of the background they called home.

It’s not rocket science. Residents don’t want to live in boxes all their lives, well at least I don’t. I want a home.

Zainab Jalloh

Communications Officer

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