Colin Grainger

Rejuvenation of Newham will continue as we face our future

It is now more than seven months since the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Stratford when the eyes and ears of the world were upon us.

For a special period in all our lives we were the centre of the universe. But now is the time for Newham and the rest of East London to face its future.

The message from the majority of people locally is unanimous. We will never have a better chance to change things for the better. The feel good factor must not just fade and die.

The Games legacy will be measured against the promises made. In 2005, it was children from Newham to went to Singapore to help win the bid.

Now the Golden Generation has our future in their hands. The young and not so young in our borough can make a difference. One Paralympian told me after the games: “Stratford is such a lovely place. It has exceeded all my expectations. I  just want to go back to the beginning and start again.”

And when Paralympic stars visited one school, one pupil remarked: “We have disabled children amongst more luckier ones like me… we have so much to learn from them.”

Volunteers took to the streets to inform and guide athletes, officials and visitors, while residents, in the most multicultural place in the world, embraced the Games.

So where are we now and what can we all do to ensure future generations not only  take part in sport, but that we transform the East End. Securing the legacy remains a challenge for this and future generations. In the first of a number of special reports I examine the situation from a number of perspectives. 

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales  believes the rejuvenation of Newham began long before the Games and it will continue for a long time after.

He said  Newham Council has been committed from the start to ensuring a lasting legacy for the Olympic Stadium in Stratford that will benefit the borough’s residents, London and the nation as a whole.

“Transforming the whole of the East End was a key promise in London’s Olympic bid and we are investing £40m to secure that legacy by converting the stadium into a word class multi-use attraction. It gives us a 35 per cent stake in the greatest stadium in the world, which will be the beating heart of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and East London,”  said Sir Robin.

“Our investment in the stadium will be returned through a share of the profits generated over the long-term and a range of community benefits for Newham residents. It will also enable us to support residents into jobs in such an inspirational place, provide tickets to the stadium as a reward for those who put something back into our community and give local sports clubs access to the Olympic community track.

“Hopefully we can find another local sporting great like Stratford athlete Christine Ohuruogu, as well as firing the ambition of Newham children as they cross the same finishing line as their sporting heroes.

“We are delighted that West Ham United has been chosen by the London Legacy Development Corporation to become the main occupant of the stadium on a 99-year-lease. It is a community club which shares our vision for Newham and the local area. They’ve been doing that in Upton Park for the past hundred years and now they will be doing that for the next hundred years in Stratford.”
Sir Robin said that Newham played no part in the concession decision, but have now endorsed it through the joint partnership. They will now work with  partners to transform and develop the stadium and island site into one of London’s premier destination venues and a home for sport and entertainment for generations to come.

“The stadium agreement has been a long time coming but it is the right decision for Newham, London and the nation. Together we will achieve its potential and deliver Great Britain’s legacy promise.  But that’s not all. The Olympics and Paralympics inspired everyone and we do not want to lose the energy that was created. That is why despite being hit by one of the biggest central government grant cuts suffered by any local authority, we continue to provide free swims for residents under 16 and over 60. Elite sport stars start at local level and we’re already doing our bit with programmes like Every Child a Sportsperson which, working with the University of East London, is giving young people a golden chance to find a sport they enjoy and are good at.”

Said Sir Robin: “Before the Games we were ahead of the curve when it came to developing a lasting local legacy. This included having the biggest volunteering programme in the UK with more than 8,000 registered volunteers as well as direct support and partnerships with clubs such as Newham & Essex Beagles Athletics club, West Ham Boxing Club and Newham Swords fencing club.  During the Games we had more than 1,000 residents involved in the Opening Ceremony including 230 children from seven schools. We bought 500 Olympic and Paralympic tickets for residents, ranging from the highest demand Opening Ceremony tickets to day passes for the Olympic Park.

“And in the future, our long-term commitment is to a legacy of convergence, where central and local Government, related agencies, sports bodies and clubs work together to continue the successes achieved during the Games.”

But, he said, it was not just the sporting legacy. Stratford’s transport hub and the future Crossrail now make Newham one of Europe’s best-connected centres. The digital infrastructure for iCity puts us in the heart of the digital revolution. The £3.7bn CanningTown and Custom House regeneration is under way to create jobs and new homes, plus the 1,379 affordable homes at EastVillage, the first legacy neighbourhood from the 2012, will make the Olympic park a community. Newham fought for and has now secured nomination rights to the majority of the family homes for social rent in the former athletes’ village.

Olympic Stadium decision

Sir Robin said: “We helped to create 5,400 jobs for Newham residents as a direct consequence of the Games. And in 2013 we will get another 5,000 residents into sustainable work via Workplace, the council’s employment and training service.

“In 2012 our Games and Diamond Jubilee-inspired Let’s Get the Party Started grant programme saw more than 1,000 resident-led celebrations across the borough. In 2013 we will again provide grants to people who have great ideas for events and activities that bring our local community together and get more people involved in their area.

“The Games were an incredible milestone on the journey to make Newham a place where people want to live, work and stay. The rejuvenation of Newham began long before the Games and it will continue for a long time after.”

 This is the first of a number of features which appear in Your Docklands & City and Your Stratford City magazines published by Your Media London

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