Barking Riverside has a decent case for the title of most isolated place to live in London. There are other contenders, of course: the wrong end of Muswell Hill, near the North Circular, or the wonderfully named Pratt’s Bottom, near Bromley, a 30-minute walk from the nearest train station. But these sit in the middle of a sprawling, settled suburbia. Barking Riverside, the UK’s largest brownfield regeneration scheme, is estranged even from the traffic-clogged A13 by swaths of industrial land, which cut it off from Barking town centre and the other more lived-in bits of east London’s edgelands to the north and the Thames to the south.
Despite there being 1,800 people already living in Barking Riverside (and an estimated 2,500 in the 90s-built Barking Reach and Great Fleete developments nearby) there’s nowhere to sit and have coffee, no pub, no police station, no youth club, no football pitch – unless you hire it from the school – and the doctor’s surgery will only open when there are 10,000 people living here.
“It’s like living on an island,” says Yvonne Thomas, chair of the local residents’ association. “Before the shop opened in February, to get a pint of milk on a morning could take an hour in the car because of the traffic.”
The shop is a Morrisons local – and the fact that it took so long for it to open, coupled with the lack of a train line anywhere nearby, has left most residents here feeling frustrated and some a little duped. “The shop is a Harrods for us,” says Khushnood Ahmed, who has lived here for seven years since moving from East Ham. There probably hasn’t been another place in London where the opening of a Morrisons has meant so much to a community. When an ice-cream van turns up, residents ask it to leave: they don’t want to upset the store. […]