A senior councillor has revealed plans to open a homeless centre at a former retirement home - but some are not convinced by the move.

Royal Jubilee Court in Main Road, Gidea Park, previously earmarked to be redeveloped as an older person's village, is set to become a homeless centre, confirmed cabinet member for housing Keith Darvill.

Cllr Darvill said the facility was needed to save on costs incurred by expensive hotel accommodation for the homeless and help “desperate” families with children amid the cost-of-living crisis.

“We have an obligation to place people in temporary accommodation by central government,” he said. “Those include families that need to get their children to school.

“There’s some with physical disabilities and we have an obligation to cater for them,” he added. “It’s not just an obligation to help people in a desperate homeless situation, it’s also a question of doing it cost efficiently.”

Cllr Darvill said a shortage of private sector properties available to Havering Council made Royal Jubilee Court a sensible choice.

Romford Recorder: Cllr Keith Darvill has defended the planCllr Keith Darvill has defended the plan (Image: LDRS)

But some, including a Gidea Park resident, have expressed concern.

Linda Jupp, of Reed Pond Walk, claimed residents have not been properly consulted and Royal Jubilee Court should be a place for older people.

“My main concern is that without consultation, with no notification to anyone in the area, a place that’s always been for older people has been rushed through.

“They’re trying to do it through the back door.”

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Linda, a retiree, added that if the premises were to be repurposed it should be used for people stuck in hospitals.

But Cllr Darvill said the council did not need to consult people since the property was available for occupation.

Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, agreed with Linda and said it should remain a place for the elderly.

“Royal Jubilee Court was purpose built for older people,” he said. “It’s a retirement village, sheltered accommodation, and that’s what it should be used for – not for other purposes.

“It's really unacceptable that the council has done this.”

When asked an alternative place to house homeless people, Mr Rosindell said: “That’s for the borough to decide, they are responsible for housing and they need to find suitable locations.”

Cllr Darvill hit back and said demand for housing from families of all descriptions meant re-opening Royal Jubilee Court as a homeless centre was necessary.

Romford Recorder: Romford MP Andrew RosindellRomford MP Andrew Rosindell (Image: Andrew Rosindell)

“He [Rosindell] is an MP in the governing party […] perhaps the questions ought to be asked to [him], rather than complain about a council trying to look after people in predicaments through no fault of their own.

“We’ve got this big demand and we have families of all descriptions currently living in hotel accommodation, and we feel Royal Jubilee Court will be a better provision,” he added.

Andrew Honeyman, a Gidea Park resident, said he had been concerned about a lack of council communication, but acknowledged the need to support homeless families.

“It’s not an ideal location,” he said. “There should’ve been some public consultation rather than doing things through the back door.

“[But] I would hate to see young children homeless in this weather.”

Andrew added that he would support a place for homeless families, but said residents remained concerned.

“The council needs to be honest about what is happening, the type of people that are going to be housed there and for how long,” he added.

Mr Rosindell called on the council to find somewhere else and claimed elderly residents had been unfairly treated.

"All kinds of people could be put there with people of particular needs, which is not really suitable for a place designed for elderly people."

But Cllr Darvill said residents made homeless by landlords through no fault evictions needed to be placed in temporary accommodation immediately.

"If we carry on and not provide accommodation we will be costing Havering residents a lot more money, because using hotel accommodation is a lot more expensive than using facilities lying idle," he added.