Beam Park: 'We were sold a dream that's not going to happen'
Charles Thomson and Ben Lynch
- Credit: Cleo Caldicott
For years, planning authorities have been recommending approval for housing projects around Beam Park, based on an expected new railway station. Now its future appears to be in doubt, buyers say they are considering legal action.
In spring, primary school teacher Cleo Caldicott excitedly moved into a house in Beam Park, Rainham, with her partner and their two children.
Soon, they had been told, a new railway station would open a short walk away.
“That was one of the main selling points,” she says. “A station was going to be built and all the other facilities that came with that, like the retail hub.”
But now, just months after moving in, Cleo and others are considering a legal action. They say they bought homes based on a railway station development which was never actually approved.
“We were sold a dream that’s not really going to happen,” Cleo says.
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In 2015, then-mayor Boris Johnson published his “London Riverside Opportunity Area Planning Framework”, for 26,500 new homes around Barking and Rainham and a new c2c Rail station at Beam Park.
Havering Council included the station in its 2016 Local Plan and initially agreed to deliver it.
In 2018, when the council said it did not have the capacity to deliver the station, the Greater London Authority (GLA) took over and chose two developers to build up to 9,000 homes around it.
Permission was granted for several phases of housing to be built before the station.
In September 2021, when Jon Cruddas – Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham – heard whispers that the station had been axed, he wrote to the Department for Transport (DfT), asking why.
On October 6, he received a reply from transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who dropped a bombshell.
“It is not that the department withdrew support or funding,” he wrote, “but that support was never given in the first place.”
Since then, asked to comment on plans for a new Beam Park station, c2c Rail has failed to express support, instead saying in a statement: "We are keen to work with local partners to help ensure there is good access for local residents to our existing stations.
"We fully understand how important it is to provide sufficient capacity from Rainham and Dagenham Dock stations."
Mr Heaton-Harris claimed the DfT told the GLA in 2017 that the business case for the station was “very poor”, as operating costs “appeared not to have been taken into account”.
He said the DfT again raised “grave concerns” in 2018, but was not contacted by the GLA again until more than two years later.
In the meantime, planning authorities had allowed housing developments to commence around Beam Park.
After communication resumed in 2020, Mr Heaton-Harris wrote, the DFT made clear that it would not approve the station unless the GLA agreed to cover any financial losses it generated in perpetuity.
Unless the GLA agrees, which is has not yet done, the two sides are stuck in a stalemate.
"As previously agreed, the construction of the station will be managed by the GLA," says Countryside Properties, which was set to build it once the funding was sorted.
"Delivery of the station cannot progress until changes its position and agrees to support its adoption onto the wider network."
This week, councillors will be asked to formally adopt Havering’s Local Plan, which is contingent on the station being delivered, even though they now know it may not happen.
“It’s an absolutely ridiculous position to be in,” says Labour leader Keith Darvill.
At last week’s Cabinet meeting, a planning officer recommended councillors adopt the plan, saying: “The position from officers is that at this stage, there isn’t a ‘no’ to the station.”
“But that’s not the point,” says Independent Residents group councillor Graham Williamson. “The only point that matters is, there isn’t a yes – and there never was.”
Next year, Havering is due to launch a review of its Local Plan – so if the station is lost, it says, it can hatch a Plan B, which will likely involve building elsewhere in the borough instead.
But, says Cllr Williamson, that won’t undo the development which has already happened or help those who have already moved in.
The proposed station meant more homes than usual were approved, with very few car parking spaces.
An example Havering Council report, about a November 2019 application for 239 homes in Beam Park said: “There is a justification for a high-density development due to its location within the opportunity area and close proximity to the Beam Park Centre and new station.”
“The council and the GLA were playing a shambolic game,” says Cllr Williamson. “They gambled that the station would be approved and never told anybody that it hadn’t been. The reports never suggested it might not happen.
“They were using the station to justify denser housing, taller tower blocks – but it was all a fairy story. Without the station, it all falls down. Shops and businesses won’t come without the footfall of the station.
“We’re left with massive over-development, no station, no retail and nowhere for residents to park.”
But, says Conservative council leader Damian White, Havering is a "low-tier" planning authority - the station had already been adopted as part of the mayor’s London Plan.
“Our decisions and officers’ reports must be in conformity with the London Plan,” he says.
“The London plan states there is going to be the delivery of a train station, for which the Mayor of London is responsible.
“The properties that have been built and sold, whilst I have a huge amount of sympathy for those residents, they were not sold by the council and all we can do is be a sort of place-maker and a campaigner and make sure that we hold the GLA and the mayor to account for the delivery of that station.”
Cleo’s new-build only came with one parking space.
At the moment, her partner is detouring significantly from his own commute to drive her 40 minutes to work – roughly a third of her journey time on public transport.
But that was a short-term solution. With no new station and no space for a second car, Cleo faces up to four hours a day commuting.
"We remain fully committed to delivering the proposed plans for Beam Park station as we understand it is one of the key components for the regeneration of the wider area," says Countryside Properties, the developer of Cleo's home.
"We recognise frustrations of residents due to this uncertainty and, together with our partners, continue to engage with the Secretary of State."
Meanwhile, existing residents are concerned about the influx of new neighbours with no new infrastructure
Michael Turner, who lives near the new homes, says existing stations like Elm Park are already overcrowded.
“The last time I went you couldn’t get a seat at eight o’clock,” he says. “So I don’t know what it’ll be like when that’s all built.”
Others, like Mansali Susso, hoped to use the new station.
“I’m very sad and disappointed,” he said. “It can create so many opportunities for people who struggle to go to work to London.... I have to walk to Rainham, to catch a train to Barking. Some of my friends wanted to come here just because of this new station.”
“We wouldn’t have bought the property if we had known that the station wasn’t going to be built,” says Cleo. “We just feel extremely frustrated and let down.”
Buyers have set up a residents’ group, with more than 100 members, and are in talks about taking legal action.
“Ultimately, we want the station to be built,” says Cleo. “But if not, we just want some compensation.”
The GLA was approached for comment.
Additional reporting by Ben Lynch.
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