A senior councillor has sought to allay fears over plans to open a homeless centre at a former retirement home.

Havering Council deputy leader Cllr Gillian Ford said the proposed use of Royal Jubilee Court in Gidea Park as a homeless centre will be temporary, the decision was made openly and residents will be "ordinary families without a home."

The Main Road sheltered housing complex, previously earmarked to be redeveloped as an older person's village, will be used as temporary accommodation for homeless families until a family welcome centre in Harold Hill is built, she said.

The council will revert to original regeneration plans once the building opens in 2025 or 2026, she added.

This comes after criticism from residents and Romford's MP Andrew Rosindell, who said last Friday (October 20) that the move was "unacceptable".

But Cllr Ford said the council needed to deal with rising homelessness and a shortage of private sector housing.

Writing on Facebook, she said: "We have seen an unprecedented number of families finding themselves homeless in the past 12-18 months."

Cllr Ford added that the council has had to place homeless people in hotels and claimed it cost the local authority £325,000 a month.

She also explained that staying long term in hotels also impacts negatively on children’s schooling and well-being, with considerable impact on mental health for both parents and children.

RELATED NEWS: Royal Jubilee Court, Romford, set to be homeless centre

Romford Recorder: Royal Jubilee Court in Gidea ParkRoyal Jubilee Court in Gidea Park (Image: Google)

Cllr Keith Darvill, cabinet member for housing, said last Friday that it would be more cost-effective to use a facility lying idle, such as Royal Jubilee Court, than using hotels.

But residents such as Andrew Honeyman of Gidea Park felt they had not been properly consulted.

"Its not an ideal location," he said. "There should've been some public consultation rather than doing this through the back door."

In response to such claims, Cllr Ford said the intention to use Royal Jubilee Court to accommodate homeless families was put forward by Cllr Paul McGeary, Labour representative for Gooshays ward, at a council meeting on June 12.

Ward members were invited to a meeting on August 3 to discuss the plans, she added.

Mr Rosindell had said that all kinds of people could be put there with people of particular needs, which was not suitable for a building designed for elderly people

To address that, Cllr Ford said residents will be "ordinary local families" without a home and the premises will be staffed with 24-hour security and CCTV.