‘It is unsuitable’: Council leader opposes Romford retail park and business centre redevelopment plan

A computer generated image of what the Rom Yard development could look like. Picture: Patel Taylor

A computer generated image of what the Rom Yard development could look like. Picture: Patel Taylor - Credit: Patel Taylor

Havering Council leader Damian White has described plans for the multi-million pound redevelopment of the Seedbed Centre and Rom Valley Retail Park in Romford as “unsuitable”.

Havering Council leader Cllr Damian White is one of the featured panellists at a meeting - set for t

Havering Council leader Cllr Damian White is one of the featured panellists at a meeting - set for this Thursday - on the Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions. Picture: Mark Sepple/Havering Council - Credit: Archant

Cllr White has voiced his opposition to the outline proposals, which the Recorder revealed earlier this month have been submitted to the council by Rom Valley LLP.

The proposals would see the demolition of existing buildings and construction of up to 7,800 square metres of business and employment space as well as 1,072 homes, with three of the blocks reaching between 16 and 20 floors in height.

Cllr White, who has backed a petition launched by Romford Conservatives, told the Recorder: “I think that it is unsuited for that bit of Romford and it is an unsuitable development.

“The set of proposals that have been brought forward I do not think are going to contribute to the regeneration of Romford. I am not too sure building a skyscraper just outside Romford town centre is a suitable location.”

The sites are owned by real estate investors Portland Capital and the project will cost around £410million to complete.

Another major housing development planned for the town is the Waterloo Estate regeneration, to feature more than 1,300 homes and a 16 floor high building.

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A hybrid planning application for that site was submitted by the council and joint venture partners Wates Residential in June.

When asked by the Recorder if he would now be raising the issue of the tower block height there, Cllr White said: “The Waterloo Estate is right in the centre of the town and it’s only a couple of minutes walk from Romford train station but the difference is the council being involved has intentionally limited the height.

“So if we were to just be private developers and to develop the site, you would probably see 22, 24 storeys.

“But the council has opted to go for a more reasonable height of one block of 16 and everything then stepping back from that.

“The proposals for the Seedbed Centre are going to be higher and denser than the set of proposals for the Waterloo Estate, which is closer to the town centre.”

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell also outlined his objections to the Seedbed Centre and Rom Valley Retail Park redevelopment in a letter to the council.

He said: “The plans are a gross overdevelopment and completely unfitting for the local area, with insufficient infrastructure and little consideration given to the needs of local residents who live in this part of Romford.”

The development, to be called Rom Yard, is planned to include an energy centre, health centre and up to 339m sq of shops and restaurant space.

A walkway will also be provided along the River Rom towards the town centre.

Andrew Curtin, chair of Romford Civic Society, said: “High density schemes are never popular, but we fully recognise that the local authority itself has provided the context for this scheme with the large developments which it proposes nearby.

“We particularly support the strong green vision for Romford inherent in this application, most notably the proposal to strengthen biodiversity and nature conservation in the town by opening up the River Rom, something which we have lobbied long and hard for.”

A Portland Capital spokesperson said the plans will include a new Seedbed Centre that is double the size of the existing one, which has 40 separate units across five warehouses, and existing tenants will be re-accommodated.

But Cllr White criticised the proposals, saying they will not be “like-for-like” replacing the current business uses at the site.

He added: “It will further worsen the ability of local residents to gain suitable start-up space.”

The regeneration proposals have gone through a consultation process over the last 18 months, the Portland Capital spokesperson said.

They added: “Local residents and businesses have actively helped to shape these plans and given us great encouragement to bring them forward.

“From the doubling in size of the employment space at the Seedbed Centre to the extent of new local affordable housing and opening up of the site, this regeneration plan seeks to optimally deliver on a town centre brownfield site with a wide range of benefits for the community.”

The petition can be found on the Romford Conservatives website.