A council-owned housing company put plans for 170 homes on a car park into motion earlier this summer - even though a cabinet member said last week the authority wasn't sure what was planned for the site.

Como Street car park in Romford and three other parking sites were approved for sale during a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday (August 9).

A planning application by Mercury Land Holdings (MLH), owned by Havering Council, requested a “screening opinion” on whether an environmental impact assessment was needed in respect of a “comprehensive redevelopment" of the Como Street site.

The submission, relating to a “residential-led scheme of circa 170 dwellings and commercial space” was sent to the council on June 30, long before the decision to dispose of the car park was taken.

Councillor Graham Williamson, cabinet member for development and regeneration, had suggested during last week's meeting that there were no concrete plans for alternative uses of the car park sites.

He had told the meeting: “Even we ourselves don’t know for certain what those will be. It is not 100pc certain how they will be disposed of.”

Cllr Williamson did not comment when questioned by the Recorder on the issue.

A Havering Council spokesperson said Como Street car park was identified in February as a site that would be sold to Mercury Land Holdings and that a decision would be "subject to further reports".

They added: "It makes sense that MLH would carry out work to establish the value of the site in the event of the sale progressing, including the screening opinion request.

“Cllr Williamson’s comment was made before any planning process is yet to conclude, and therefore no one can be certain of the final use for the site.

Romford Recorder: Cllr Graham WilliamsonCllr Graham Williamson (Image: Graham Williamson)

"However the highest value for the site is likely to be achieved if it’s sold for housing, which is being explored by MLH in the current planning process. Due process has been undertaken in accordance with council policies.

“It is important to remember that Havering faces another tough budget. The sale of under-used assets, when appropriate, will only ever happen when there is a clear benefit for the people of Havering.”

Opposition leaders had questioned the effectiveness of the council's public consultation relating to the disposal of the car parks at the cabinet meeting.

A petition was launched by Councillor David Taylor, of St Edward's ward in Romford, urging the council to carry out another consultation.

The planning application relating to the screening opinion was approved on Thursday (August 10) just a day after the cabinet meeting.

Cllr Taylor told the Recorder he felt that "the speed at which this has been made" makes it look like the sale and redevelopment of Como Street car park “was already a done deal”.

He said: “The fact that this application has been made by Mercury Land Holdings, a council-owned property developer, certainly adds to this impression.

“The council must urgently sit down with local residents, before they press on with any further plans.”

In the application, Mercury Land Holdings believed there was no need for an environmental impact assessment as the Como Street site does not lie within a statutory “sensitive area”.

It highlighted that an opposite site at Angel Way is already under construction for a mixed-use development of 350 residential units and 63-bed hotel.

However, it said, that given the nature of the proposed development and its setting, “it is not considered likely to give rise to potential significant cumulative effects over and above that previously consented within the vicinity”.

Read More: Calls for more consultation on Havering car park sale plan

It added: “Any construction related traffic, noise and air quality impacts will be short term and would appropriately be managed.”

In addition, the proposal claimed that the site is “well served by surrounding areas and service roads” and that “any increase in traffic would not be significant from an environmental standpoint."