Plans to build 175 new council flats in Hornchurch were approved by Havering Council’s strategic planning committee last night despite a heated argument over rubbish chutes.
A total of 55 council homes on Sunrise Avenue will be replaced with five blocks, ranging from three to 10 storeys high, with flats intended for residents over 55 and 134 affordable units.
Three councillors questioned whether the plans for rubbish disposal, which would involve residents going to the ground floor, were appropriate for a development for the elderly.
Concerns were also raised over the amount of parking available and whether the design would make residents feel isolated in their homes.
Cllr Keith Darvill (Lab leader, Heaton) was the first to point out that the rubbish arrangement “could create difficulties for disabled residents” and suggested adding chutes on each floor.
Cllr Reg Whitney (Residents’ Group, Hacton) agreed it was “absolutely ludicrous to suggest elderly people should walk down and drag their rubbish somewhere else when most properties have chutes”.
Principal planner Nanayaa Ampoma said the development “was too far along” for this change to be made and that doing so would “reduce the number of units they could provide”.
Cllr Ray Best (Con, Havering Park) replied he was “disappointed and amazed” that the “so-called designers” had got this far in the design process without considering the problem.
He said: “I find it very surprising that you could not fit a two-foot wide chute. It ought to be made completely clear to the designers that this must never happen again.”
Cllr Whitney also raised a concern about whether the design, which does not feature the connected landings common to estates built in the 1950s, would isolate residents.
He said: “When you go back to the 1950s, when they built flats, they built landings that were open so they were like streets.
“Here each door is isolated, you are in a hallway that echoes and it’s not nice to stand there and have a chat with your neighbour.”
Principal planner Nanayaa Ampoma conceded this point but said the block will at least “have a space specifically for residents to socialise”.
The development is one of 12 council-owned sites that the council hopes to build on in the next decade, adding 3,000 more homes to the borough.
The project was given near unanimous approval with Cllr Whitney choosing to abstain from the vote.