The architects of a brand new community in east London, to be built as part of the Thames Gateway project, will be chosen in a series of design competitions.

Bellway Homes and English Partnerships, the joint-venture developers of the Barking Riverside estate, are holding a competition for the first phase of 1800 homes and more competitions will follow. At least two architects will be chosen to design the houses.

Separate design competitions will be launched for public areas, schools and local centres.

The 179 ha site at Barking Reach is one of the key regeneration areas in the Thames Gateway and a test-bed for development thinking.

The site has been masterplanned by Dutch architect Maxwan. The houses are likely to be built using prefabricated components. An application for outline planning permission for the site was submitted last month.

Roger Bond, director of Barking Riverside, said that Bellway may also put in a bid to the Housing Corporation for a social housing grant to develop affordable homes on the site.

The developer hopes to receive outline planning consent by the middle of this year and to begin work on the 20-year build programme early in 2006.

Bellway Homes has an option to develop up to half of the 10,800 homes. The rest of the land will be sold to housebuilders as serviced plots.

Maxwan’s proposals for the former power station site include apartment blocks up to 14 storeys high on its River Thames frontage, with lower density housing behind. The design also includes broad Dutch-style streets, with a central boulevard that is 45 m wide and incorporates the proposed Docklands Light Railway extension.

The developer said the selection of other architects to work on areas of the site would not dilute Maxwan’s ideas.

“We would like Maxwan to stay with the project in a custodian role. The design has to be controlled by the joint-venture vehicle,” said Bond.