Plans unveiled for housing on ‘surplus’ Hornchurch car park

Plans have been formally submitted to turn a Havering car park into six family homes.

Mercury Holdings Ltd, owned entirely by Havering Council, has put forward proposals to transform Keswick Avenue in Hornchurch into a residential area.

If approved, the 42-lot car park will be turned into six three-bedroom homes, with private, south-facing gardens and room for one car per house, as well as cycling spaces and bins.

In its application, the applicants argue it would constitute a “more sustainable” use of the brownfield site, which is “surplus” to the council’s needs, while also meeting the demand for “much-needed” housing.

One nearby resident previously raised concerns over the loss of the car park, saying it could “undermine the viability” of the area’s shopping centres.

However, the council pointed to nearby car parks – such as Billet Lane and Fentiman Way – as alternatives and said its active transport strategy, which encourages the use of public services, would also negate the impact.

In a bid to plug its budget gap of £32.5million – and ease the pressure of a recent £54m loan from central government – Havering outlined plans to sell six off-street car parks earlier this month.

The scheme is part of the cash-strapped authority’s wider ‘capital strategy,’ which will involve selling various public assets between 2023 and 2028.

The sale of all six sites, primarily located in Hornchurch and Romford, was said to net the council £8.69m.

Despite the loss of £190,000 in annual revenue, council officials were confident a housing scheme would balance out.

Redevelopment of the land is expected to take between two and three years. If planning permission could not be secured, then the council would be obliged to buy the land back from Mercury Holdings at the original price and reimburse it for any losses.

Alongside Keswick Avenue, the council has earmarked the following car parks for ‘disposal’ and redevelopment: Como Street car park in Romford; Dorrington Gardens in Hornchurch; Angel Way in Romford; Century Youth House in Albert Road, Romford and land off Priory Road in Romford.

Until planning permission is secured, the council will rent the sites back from its own Mercury Holdings at a very low, or “peppercorn,” rate.

The council intends on developing a “significant” project in Como Street, but details about the car parks’ future have not yet been made public.

Last Thursday (April 18), Havering confirmed its plans to bid for a £24m grant from City Hall to buy up homes to use for social housing.

Officials hope to buy 160 homes to meet the rising demand for housing in the borough, which it says has been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis and increased homelessness.

The authority is currently spending £73 a day to keep a single homeless person in a hotel, while a family costs £91.

Proposals are also being developed for 138 new homes off Chippenham Road.

There, four apartment blocks, comprising one, two, three, and four-bedroom properties, will likewise address the “pressing need” for housing in the borough, it says.

In March 2021, the cabinet approved the Harold Hill Town Centre masterplan, which would cost £192.8m in council money and a further £21.7m in general funding.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter