Design changes to Rainham flats development approved despite concerns

Designs for the Napier and New Plymouth House site in March 2020

Designs for the Napier and New Plymouth House site unveiled a year ago - Credit: Havering Council

Changes some councillors fear will “reduce the quality” of a huge housing development in Rainham have been approved.

Permission to build 197 flats in three blocks ranging up to 10 storeys high on the former Napier and New Plymouth House site, between Dunedin Road and New Road, was granted in April last year.

However, the designs appeared before the council’s strategic planning committee again on February 25 after a number of changes were made, including the removal of some windows.

Some councillors feared the changes were cost-cutting measures that would reduce the quality of the scheme, although this was denied by the council’s assistant director of planning.

The changes were approved by a majority of the committee, after a proposal to defer the decision was voted down.

Cllr Graham Williamson (Independent Residents’ Group) said the changes “seemed like a rationalisation to reduce the quality of some of the works… presumably to save money”.

He said: “I remember when this planning application was being promoted and consulted on, there was great emphasis put on the quality of the exteriors.

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“Obviously when I saw this, which I suspect is a slight downgrade, that did concern me.”

Changes include replacing double windows with single windows, removing windows from some bathrooms and losing Juliet balconies.

Cllr Reg Whitney (Residents’ Group) added: “We as a committee were quite happy with the building as they were… now all of a sudden things are developing.

“You are taking out windows and taking out doors and this committee deserves a proper explanation.”

The two councillors proposed a motion to defer the committee’s decision until an explanation could be provided but this was rejected by the majority.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday, March 3, Residents’ Group leader Ray Morgon referred to the scheme as an example of a joint venture that posed a possible risk to the council’s finances.

He said there were “question marks” around the viability of some of the council’s schemes and possible “signs we may be trying to reduce quality”.

The development is considered the first step in a £1.5billion regeneration of the borough’s council estates, for which it is partnering with Wales Residential.

The joint venture programme aims to build around 3,500 high-quality new homes by 2035.

In September, the council was forced to buy out the private partner in one of its other joint ventures to regenerate Bridge Close in Romford.

The council partnered with First Base Limited and Savills Investment Management Limited on the project in 2018 and aimed to build 1,070 homes on the site.

However, the private partner pulled out of the deal last year, citing “the slowing down of the housing market, increased construction costs, design enhancements and inflation”.