The Mercury: What do sales of The Liberty and The Brewery mean for Romford's town centre?

The Mercury Mall shopping centre in Romford is leading the way on green energy and tech innovation i

The Mercury's Spencer Hawken emphasises that sales of shopping centres are not uncommon, and can often result in improvements to the area - Credit: Archant

The centre manager at a Romford shopping centre has reassured shoppers that “nothing is going to happen overnight” following the recent sales of two central malls. 

Both The Liberty and The Brewery have been purchased in the last few months, prompting fears about the new owners’ long-term intentions for the shopping centres

However, Spencer Hawken, centre manager at The Mercury, said sales of such sites is common and nothing to be overly concerned about. 

Harold Wood's Spencer Hawken - The Mercury's centre manager, Netflix consultant and a co-founder of Romford Film Festival

Harold Wood-born Spencer Hawken hosting the Romford Film Festival awards, held in The Mercury shopping centre - Credit: Sandra Rowse

Speaking exclusively to the Recorder, Spencer emphasised how the deals do not reflect a loss of confidence in Romford’s town centre, adding that if there is a move to provide for more housing, constructing homes on top of malls can result in benefits to all residents in the area. 

“Yes, it may be raising the height of buildings to accommodate those, but at the end of the day, we’re a growing population and those people have to go somewhere,” he said. 

Acknowledging there are legitimate concerns around development and growing populations, he added: “There is potential for much improvement as a result, which will ultimately improve how Romford appears to the outside.” 

He points to The Mercury’s own experience with delivering housing in 2006, when it added an Asda to its site and 240 flats on top. 

Spencer emphasises such an approach is not rare and makes sense given the demand for more homes. 

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Crucially, Spencer said he does not believe any of Romford’s shopping centres will be pulled down in order to clear space for future developments. 

"If you look at the people who are buying these centres, they are generally improving these stores.” 

Spencer said that given the need for more housing, constructing on top of shopping centres can make sense

Spencer said that given the need for more housing, constructing on top of shopping centres can make sense - Credit: Google

Plus, he adds, there are processes involved before any major planning decisions can be made. Applications have to be submitted and consultations held. 

“Any concern about anything bad going to happen, it won’t happen overnight.” 

Instead, he believes the recent purchases could indicate an exciting period for Romford, and are part of a wider renewed sense of faith in the future of the town. 

“Lots of people see lots of potential in Romford," he said. "You look at Wendy’s, and you look at Popeyes. These are big American organisations that have chosen Romford out of thousands of other locations.”