Work to demolish existing buildings on a former college site has begun as part of a project to build new homes.

A planning application was approved in July 2021 to construct 120 homes on the Quarles campus of Havering College in Harold Hill.

It was vacated in 2020 after serving as a base for engineering, plumbing and welding courses for 47 years.  

Developer Bellway London Partnerships had submitted the proposal in collaboration with Havering Council’s housing company Mercury Land Holdings.

The plan consisted of building 73 houses and apartments for private sale and 47 'affordable' homes available for local people through low-cost rent or shared ownership.

The development, called Roe Wood Park, will also include new green open space including a new public park, play space for children and a series of biodiversity measures, such as log piles, bug hotels and bird boxes.

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The college had said in 2021 that the site was “surplus to need” and the council's strategic planning committee voted to approve the scheme in the same year.

This was despite 79 objections received from neighbours that included claims the project would lead to “excessive” development in the area and put more strain on doctors and other services.

Some councillors also raised concerns about developing the green belt and the project’s impact on wildlife.

Havering planning officer, Raphael Adenegan, assured the 2021 committee meeting that the development would not encroach on nearby woodlands or affect wildlife adversely.

Two years since this approval, demolition work has now begun to make way for the homes.

A spokesperson for Bellway London Partnerships said that a small colony of bats - a protected species - had occupied the disused buildings before.

They had to be “securely relocated by a specialist team” before the buildings could be bulldozed.

David Burns, managing director of Bellway London Partnerships, said the development will put “this disused and derelict site to good use” creating an “attractive new neighbourhood” and “meeting the demand for more homes in the area”.

He added: “The new affordable housing will also provide high-quality homes for local people who cannot afford to buy their own place and create a new park for local residents to enjoy.”

Bellway London Partnerships, the spokesperson said, is aiming to start the construction of new homes later this year. The first residents are expected to be able to move in from 2024.