Compulsory purchase plan for Romford regeneration

Havering Council is planning to use compulsory purchase powers to push forward with a £451m regeneration scheme in Romford town centre.

The council, through a holding company, has submitted a planning application to build 1,070 homes, a school, health centre and commercial units at the site, known as Bridge Close.

However, it only owns about 57 per cent of the land and is now planning to force the remaining owners to sell through a compulsory purchase order.

Most of the residential properties which face the Romford ring road have already sold their properties to the council, but only 65 per cent of the commercial estate behind those homes have sold up.

Havering’s cabinet member for planning and regeneration Graham Williamson said the council is still trying to buy properties on the site “through mutual agreement”.

However, he confirmed the council would use compulsory purchase powers “as a last resort” to “achieve the council’s vision” of regenerating the site.

A schedule in a report before cabinet last week suggests that the council hopes to gain planning permission by September this year and hold a public inquiry into its use of the powers in 2025.

Questions also remain about the viability of the scheme, which was originally a joint-venture with First Base Limited and Savills Investment Management Limited.

In 2020, both partners pulled out of the scheme, reportedly due to slowing down of the housing market, increased construction costs, design enhancements and inflation.

Despite this, the council claims it is aiming for 35% to 50% of the flats to be classed as “affordable”, although this is “subject to viability”.

This would be 148 flats at “affordable rent”, which is usually 80% of market rates, and 339 shared-ownership flats.

An assessment of the scheme’s viability carried out by Savills suggests that without a £76m additional subsidy for affordable housing, there would be an overall “deficit” of £60m.

Havering Council’s planning application has been submitted in two parts.

The first is a detailed application for 383 homes on part of the site, while the rest of the site remains only outline, with exact details to be submitted at a later date.

To view or comment on the planning application, search for reference P1765.23 on the council’s online planning portal.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter