Impasse over plan to cut parking at Romford flats after councillor objections

Parking at Romford development debated

No decision was reached on an application to reduce parking at the Verve Apartments in Romford following objections from the council's strategic planning committee. - Credit: Google Maps

A proposal to take away parking spaces previously promised to residents at a Romford block of flats remains live after councillor objections prevented a final decision.

The application - debated last Thursday (August 12) - centres around the Verve Apartments in Mercury Gardens, Romford.

Formerly, this was an office building known as Hexagon House before the main building was converted to 115 residential apartments.

Two additional storeys were added at roof level to accommodate a further 20 apartments.

Provision for 60 car parking spaces was made as part of the original 115-flat proposal, with a recent application made by Smith Homes Ltd intending to cut this allocation to 27 spaces.

This effort to retrospectively vary the conditions of an application already granted prompted councillor Joshua Chapman (Romford Town, Con) to call it in for debate.

"The original prior approval set out that 60 car parking spaces were required as part of the initial conversion, alongside 115 cycle spaces.

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"These commitments were made in the technical report that was set out by Entran dated September 2015," said Cllr Chapman.

He proceeded to refer to the council's decision letter from 2015 - when the original application was granted - which said: "The car and cycle parking spaces detailed by the Technical Note produced by Entran dated September 2015 shall be permanently retained for use by occupants of the residential conversion and for no other purposes whatsoever."

The cabinet member for housing believes the latest application "makes a mockery of the system".

“The developers are using the planning system now - after four years - to reduce the number of parking spaces, when they should’ve been provided all those years ago to residents," said Cllr Chapman.

He also alleged that residents have never been given access to those spaces in the years since the development opened - claiming they've been “withheld and gated up".

Councillors on the strategic planning committee shared Cllr Chapman's view that this application should be refused, with Cllr Graham Williamson (Independent Residents' Group, South Hornchurch) arguing that passing it would set "a dangerous precedent".

Beyond fearing what he considers a "massive loophole", Cllr Williamson argued that residents will have moved in "on the basis that there would be 60 car parking spaces".

This latter point also concerned Cllr Linda Hawthorn (Upminster and Cranham Residents Group, Upminster): "I was probably on the planning committee in October 2015 that allowed this, and one of the things that probably swayed me was the number of car park places."

The committee voted unanimously to refuse the application following a motion brought forward by Cllr Reg Whitney (Residents' Group, Hacton).

Following this, Havering's assistant director of planning Helen Oakerbee said: "It’s a discussion about refusal, and it’s a discussion about refusal that is sitting principally around insufficient on-site car parking provision, and the harm that comes from that in the committee’s view.

"In the London Plan context, and in an appeal, I think it’s highly likely an appeal would be successful."

According to that plan, released in March this year, all schemes which have a public transport accessibility level (PTAL) rating of six are required to be car free.

The site in question has a rating of 6b, with this classification used to support the argument that 33 spaces could be lost from the site without undue harm.

With the committee's refusal competing against the argument that it would be overturned on appeal, Ms Oakerbee explained the current position: "Members have reached a vote not to support the officer recommendation for approval.

"The advice that I’ve given to the committee is that it would be beneficial for me to bring a report back for their further consideration. At this point, no further decision has been taken on this application.”

This means that the application remains live, and will return for decision in the future. 

The applicant has not responded to a request for comment.