Green light for new 74-room temporary accommodation and health centre in Harold Hill

Havering Council intends on constructing the Harold Hill Welcome Centre on this Hilldene Avenue site

The Harold Hill Welcome Centre will be built on this Hilldene Avenue site, and will include 74 dwellings plus a health centre - Credit: Google

Councillors have given plans for a new 74-room hostel and health centre in Harold Hill the green light. 

Dubbed the Harold Hill Welcome Centre, the plans involve demolishing the existing Abercrombie House, the old library and a former boxing club to make way for the new development

At the time of the submission earlier this year, Patrick Odling-Smee, director of housing, said: “The new site will help us to look after vulnerable families that find themselves in difficult situations, providing a safe, high-quality and comfortable place to stay while we find them permanent homes.” 

On Thursday night (July 21), the strategic planning committee met to review the application, with some areas of concern raised. 

Cllr Reg Whitney, for example, highlighted potential issues around the play space to be provided for children. 

Referring to guidelines on how much living space is required for such developments, Cllr Whitney said: “They’re there for a good reason; to have decent living, and decent apartments and play areas.

"But we sit here, at this committee, ignoring most, even the London Plan and our own plan. We sit ignoring it here saying it’s acceptable. Well, I would say it’s not acceptable.” 

The case officer, John Kaimakamis, noted Cllr Whitney’s reservations but said other opportunities exist around the perimeter of the site to make up the shortfall.

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These include the parks to the north and east, for which funds would be provided to maintain and possibly improve. 

Cllr David Taylor also queried the use of the term “temporary” in the plans, as the rooms will be continuously occupied, if not by the same family. 

He added it must be ensured that this does not provide justification for delivering a lower-quality product, saying: “There is an urgent need in Romford. But that urgent need shouldn’t mean we make any compromises on what we’re providing for these people.” 

Support for the proposal was also voiced by various members including Cllr Jane Keane and Cllr Bryan Vincent, the latter of whom said, compared to many similar projects, this is "the Ritz”. 

Following the debate the committee unanimously approved the plans, subject to obligations including carbon offsetting contributions, park improvement, employment and training. 

According to the application, work is due to start on July 2023 and be completed by December 2024. 

View the application using the reference P0461.22.