Petition aims to save 'very well loved' independent Romford shops from demolition for flats

Judith Holt

Cllr Judith Holt has handed out a paper petition to the whole of Victoria Road in the hope of saving Twins and Wet Pets - Credit: Judith Holt/Google Maps

A petition posted through the letterboxes of Romford residents hopes to save long-standing shops from being bulldozed. 

Conservative councillor for St Alban’s ward, Cllr Judith Holt, handed out a paper petition to the whole of Victoria Road with the aim of saving wedding shop Twins and aquarium and pond supplies business Wet Pets.  

It comes after the planning application (P0970.22) from Victoria Road Romford Limited which, if approved, would see the units knocked down to make way for 15 flats – eight one-bed, four two-beds and three three-beds.  

The application says the existing site is “underutilised, featuring poor quality building with an ill-defined character”.

Cllr Holt disagrees, calling the building “unique” and part of “Romford’s Heritage”. 

She said the "niche shops are very well known and very well loved in the area”, providing a "great service for the community”.  

Three generations of Twins

Three generations of Twins: Jean, Georgia and Debbie - Credit: Debbie Herron

Debbie Herron said her family have owned Twins since 1986 when her mum, keen cake decorator Jean Dillion, "couldn’t find any supplies”.

The 64-year-old said she found out about the application last year after asking the landlady about people visiting the car park.  

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If permission is granted, Debbie said it would be difficult for Twins and Wet Pets to move as they have a good base of customers in Victoria Road.   

She said she was “upset to read” the application described the space as “underutilised” and a “poor quality building”: "We’ve spent a lot of time caring for the property, updating it and decorating it." 

Debbie said 12 employees between the two businesses would also have to be let go, “all of them long-standing, with some having been here for 20 years”, if the application goes ahead. 

Wet Pets has been running since 1977 and owner Richard Holder, who took over from his father-in-law, said finding suitable alternative premises if the permission is granted would be "a nightmare”.   

He said: “Generations of the same families coming in and it’s been surprising how many messages of support we’ve had.”  

Cllr Holt is urging people to have their say on the application by the end of July at: https://development.havering.gov.uk/OcellaWeb/planningComment?reference=P0970.22&from=planningSearch.

Victoria Road Romford Limited and its agent declined to comment. 

The London Plan: Havering's housing targets

In the London Plan 2021, which sets the framework for how the capital will develop over the next 20 to 25 years, Havering has been given a 10-year target for net housing completions of 12,850 from 2019/20 to 2028/29.  

The plan marks the residential and commercial growth potential of Romford as “high”.  

It says if London is to meet the challenges of the future, all parts will need to “embrace and manage change”, while noting not all change will be “transformative - in many places, change will occur incrementally”.  

“This is especially the case in outer London, where the suburban pattern of development has significant potential for appropriate intensification over time, particularly for additional housing,” the plan states.  

Havering’s Local Plan, which was adopted in 2021, says at least 12,505 new homes will be built in Havering over the first decade of the London Plan’s period.  

Your views 

Mark

Mark Halliday, 38 - Credit: Karim Camara

Mark Halliday from Hornchurch said: “I am for more homes for people but there is a part of me thinking fewer businesses and shops is not ideal.”  

The 38-year-old added: “When it comes to that particular spot in Romford, it has always been a market and a place for shoppers, with people able to get a spot and sell what they want so think it is a bit of a shame to demolish shops and pubs to build houses there."

He did acknowledge, however, that there are "only a finite of places you can build".

Lisa Cook

Lisa Cook, 58 - Credit: Karim Camara

Meanwhile florist Lisa Cook said: “In terms of housing, there was a big hospital (St George’s Hospital) that was taken down and now have 300 houses up there now which has put a lot of pressure on Queen’s Hospital.”  

The 58-year-old added: "There’s Emerson Park that has a lot of big houses and we also have Gidea Park, which again has a lot of money, and they all sit on top of Romford."

Dean

Dean, 35 - Credit: Karim Camara

Salesman Dean, who wishes not to disclose his last name, said: “It is a tricky one because you need to have the infrastructure to support the local community, however housing people is important." 

The 35-year-old from Hornchurch said: “There needs to be a balance of making sure people have got jobs so you can’t get rid of all the businesses, but at the same time people have still got to live somewhere, and with petrol prices going up people don’t want to commute using their own vehicles so much.”