A shop with a difference opened in the Heathway shopping centre in Dagenham today.

Rather than selling goods or services, this brightly decorated new store will be collecting ideas.

The shop unit will be the base for a team of people who hope to bring residents and businesses in the area together to share opinions and aspirations in order to develop a community vision for Dagenham Heathway.

The team of community engagement specialists from Urban Symbiotics has been commissioned by the Council’s regeneration organisation, Be First, to start a conversation with local people about how to breathe new life into the bustling neighbourhood.

They started with pop-up street stalls but have now moved into the much warmer shop unit, from where they hope to develop ideas that will drive and guide the regeneration of the heart of Dagenham.

James Stewart, of Urban Symbiotics, explains: “We’ve immersed ourselves in the Heathway, neighbourhood and we’ve heard a lot about how people want to make the area a better place to shop, work, live and come together.

“Our new home in the mall will allow us to take this further by providing a base for drop-in sessions and to host a community panel to identify, champion and deliver local initiatives. We’ll work with local people to draw up a vision for the area and then turn the talk into action.”

Councillor Donna Lumsden, said: “It’s great to see the shop open as we want to listen to people’s hopes, fears and priorities for the regeneration of Dagenham Heathway.

“It’ll help us draw up a vision and action plan to determine things like the provision of community facilities, how we support and expand retail and businesses, and the sort of public spaces that are needed for Dagenham Heathway to flourish. It’s important that any change is designed and managed to benefit the residents and businesses of the local area.

The shop features a stunning mural by local artist, Susanna Wallis, which illustrates many of the ideas and concerns that local people have already submitted. “I hope that my work captures just how lively the community is here,” she said. “I’ve attempted to bring to life some of the themes that are emerging from the community conversation.”

The shop can be found at Unit 30 Heathway Shopping Centre, The Mall Heathway, Dagenham, RM10 8RE and it is open to the public on Thursdays from 10am-4pm.

Be First London