Havering Council goes easy on developer of Romford flats despite additions and parking issues

A developer will be allowed to keep two extra flats it added to a residential block without permission from Havering Council.

In 2018 Hertfordshire-based developer Smith Homes Ltd won permission to add 20 flats to the top of a converted office block containing 115 flats in Romford.

However, it emerged in a planning committee meeting this week that during construction Smith Homes added an extra two flats without asking the council.

The committee granted the developer retrospective permission to keep the two flats with the agreement that an extra £40,000 would be charged in Community Infrastructure Levy, to be paid to the council.

The committee also heard that Smith Homes has not complied with a condition in the original 2015 planning application to provide 60 parking spaces, a bicycle shelter and a waste refuse shed.

Ward Councillor Joshua Chapman said: “I can’t believe that this application has been going on in various forms for this long.”

He asked for “cast iron” assurances that residents would be treated fairly, as in the past seven years Smith Homes has “backtracked” on promises of parking.

Smith Homes has now raised its parking spaces offer to 86 and agreed to a condition that it would build a waste refuse shed, cycle storage, and remove gravel from the car park.

However, residents’ comments in the planning report allege the developer is charging an “extortionate” £1,000 a year for one space and has made them difficult to use by adding gravel to the tarmac surface.

In the past seven years, Smith Homes has made repeated planning applications linked to the car park, including a recent bid to reduce the number of spaces to 27.

Councillor Reg Whitney said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting what these residents have to put up with… they’ve left it unused for six years hoping to get a development on the site.”

Cllr Whitney added that he did not understand why an enforcement notice issued in March this year, ordering Smith Homes to provide parking and refuse storage had still not been complied with.

In August last year, the planning report shows the developer had asked leaseholders to sign a document that claimed to “prohibit” them from objecting to any future planning applications on the car park.

In total, Smith Homes is required to pay the council £264,000 for affordable housing, £161,375 in Community Infrastructure Levy to Havering Council and £32,275 to the Greater London Authority.

The committee approved the application with five voting in favour and one voting against.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter