Housing development approved for former Romford ice rink site

A development of almost 1,000 new homes on the former Romford ice rink site has been given the green light.

Strategic planning committee members approved the plans on April 5, voting four for and two against, after a debate about the scheme’s affordability and design.

Councillors so far have only approved an “outline” application for the whole site in Rom Valley Way, which set out plans for 972 homes in seven blocks, ranging from two to 12 storeys high.

In addition to flats, the new buildings will contain shops, a “neighbourhood” centre and a facility for neighbouring Queen’s Hospital.

Members also approved full plans for the first block, which will contain 146 flats, a retail unit, the medical and neighbourhood centre and an energy centre.

Overall, 24 per cent of the bedrooms in the scheme will be affordable, a share the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) has described as “unacceptable”, arguing it “should be significantly increased”.

The GLA, who will have the final say on the planning application, also criticised the “design quality” expected for a high-density scheme and questioned the “rationale for locating tall buildings in this location”.

Introducing the plan, Havering Council’s planning officer Raphael Adenegan said that, although the affordable housing is below the GLA’s threshold, officers were satisfied with the scheme “when considered as a whole”.

The officer added that more affordable homes could be added, as the profitability of the development will be subject to “early and late stage review”.

Opposing the scheme, Romford Civic Society’s Andrew Curtain said it “fails to comply” with local, regional or national planning policy due to its design and “viability”.

He added: “It seeks to cram too much onto a small site, the number of homes envisioned is simply too high to enable the creation of a quality neighbourhood.”

He also asked what had happened to a masterplan for Romford that would guide the height of new developments, calling it “as elusive as the Easter Bunny”.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Impact Developments’ Robert Whitton told committee members he hoped the scheme would “set a benchmark”.

He added: “It is fundamentally important to me that this scheme sets a benchmark in design quality and placemaking…not least because my company was established in the borough and we will be managing this for the long term.

“It will set a precedent for all the the other homes coming to Romford. This is a new urban village for thousands on the council waiting list who want decent low-cost homes, for older living, for the parents of Havering… [and] for their sons and daughters who want to live in the borough.”

According to the planning report before councillors, there will be 62 flats at social rent, 127-137 at intermediate rent and 734-773 for the private market.

The majority of these houses will be one or two bedroom flats, with less than two in ten of the homes having three bedrooms.

Councillor Reg Whitney criticised the lack of amenity space and said the lack of family homes will make the development a “bedsit city”.

He added: “This development has more in common with Singapore or Hong Kong than it does with Romford and it sets a dangerous precedent along Rom Valley Way and further afield – it will be the end of Romford as we know it if this goes ahead.

“People will come there, have babies and move away – we want people to stay in Romford.

Councillor Ray Best, however, said he felt the scheme was “in essence” a good development, adding: “Overall, bearing in mind it’s been a long time in fruition coming to this point, we ought to try and push this forward.

“This is something that this borough really needs now, we need to get houses and properties available for people on our waiting list.”

Voting against were Cllrs David Durant, Linda Hawthorn and Reg Whitney.

Voting in favour were Cllrs Nisha Patel, Christine Smith, Ray Best, Maggie Themistocli and Keith Darvill.

According to the planning report, concerns were raised about the quality of an earlier version of the application, which contained 1,010 flats.

An application was approved to build 620 homes on the site and 830sq.m of retail space in 2018 but nothing was built and that permission has now expired.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter