Developer submits details of proposal for 1,010 homes in Romford

Robert Whitton, Founder and Chairman of Impact Capital Group on the site of the old Romford Ice Rink

Robert Whitton, founder and chairman of Impact Capital Group, spoke to the Recorder about his plans to redevelop the former Romford Ice Rink site. - Credit: Ken Mears

An application to build 1,010 new homes on the former Romford Ice Rink site has been submitted for review.

Permission already exists for a 620-home development on the seven-acre site in Rom Valley Gardens, with this new proposal the product of a lengthy design process undertaken by developer Impact Capital Group.

When plans to redevelop the land were initially mooted, Impact Capital did receive some backlash. In October last year, The Rom Way Action Group argued there were a number of problems with building on the site, including fears it would "turn the town into a concrete jungle ghetto" - claims the developer disputed.

In an exclusive interview with the Recorder, founder and chairman Robert Whitton discussed his plans, possibilities and personal motivation driving this development.

The site of the old Romford Ice Rink which is due for development

The site of the old Romford Ice Rink has been empty for a number of years, only temporarily in use at the moment as a run-off car park for hospital staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Ken Mears

Though currently being used as a temporary car park for the adjacent Queen's Hospital, the site has been empty for a number of years. 

For Romford born and bred Robert, this is a "waste" - and not just from a development standpoint: "I remember this - I was born when the ice rink was here. I used to come skating here, and to watch the Raiders play, so there's a sentimentality to it as well. It really feels like a blank canvas to create something amazing."


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So, what is planned for this blank canvas?

Robert Whitton,Founder and Chairman of Impact Capital Group on the site of the old Romford Ice Rink

Romford-born Robert explained that he wants to 'curate a community' with this development, with plans for a wellness trail and retail parade among the proposals in the most recent application. - Credit: Ken Mears

Housing

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The fresh application includes plans to build 1,010 new homes, up almost 400 from the scheme granted permission in 2018. 

In terms of affordable housing, the application is to have a viability assessment which will determine the final number. Preference for all housing will be given to Havering residents. 

Robert considers intergenerational living to be one of the themes of the proposal, reflected in the fact that there are 232 "later living" homes set aside for older residents.

"Havering has one of the biggest populations of elderly people in the whole of London, and there's a real care need," he said. "This would offer them independent living alongside care facilities, potentially freeing up the bigger homes they vacate."

He explained that "mixing generations - old and young" is the main emphasis, particularly given its known positives to combatting segregation and isolation in older people.

Robert Whitton,Founder and Chairman of Impact Capital Group on the site of the old Romford Ice Rink

Robert used to watch the Raiders play on the ice rink - pictured here in its defunct state - and says there is a degree of 'sentimentality' attached to this project. - Credit: Ken Mears

NHS Diagnostic Centre

A new clinical diagnostic hub features in the latest application, positioned in the plans to sit opposite the existing A&E. 

While the full specification and terms of the 3,000m square ft facility are to be finalised, Robert said talks with the hospital indicated that any such hub would relieve pressure on the health service. 

He said: "The hospital have been very supportive, not just because we're providing that facility for them, but in terms of housing - they say the biggest problem they have with retention is housing.

"There's a real lack of good quality housing close to this hospital."

Havering Council has since confirmed with the developer that a nomination agreement can be made under the affordable housing allocation, meaning NHS staff can be prioritised in such schemes.

The site of the old Romford Ice Rink which is due for development

The fresh application includes a proposal for a brand new clinical diagnostic hub which would sit opposite the existing A&E at Queen's Hospital. - Credit: Ken Mears

Wellness Trail 

Beyond two gyms - one outdoor, the other indoor for residents and NHS staff - the latest application includes a wellness trail. 

Described as a "green route through the neighbourhood", the trail seeks to connect the complex to Oldchurch Park; an open space Robert believes isn't currently "very well utilised".

The site of the old Romford Ice Rink which is due for development

It's anticipated that Havering Council will decide on the £400 million residential-led regeneration plans by summer 2021, with permission already in place to build 620 homes. - Credit: Ken Mears

Retail Parade

There are also plans for a small retail parade - including a café, pharmacy and coffee shop - opposite Queen's Hospital's main entrance.

According to Robert, the Costa Coffee inside the hospital building is believed to be the busiest in the UK, which he cites as evidence of need for fresh amenities - particularly if permission is granted and more people move into the area.

The site of the old Romford Ice Rink which is due for development

A small retail parade has been included in the plans, positioned to sit opposite the main entrance to the hospital. - Credit: Ken Mears

Sustainability 

Design sustainability is "really high on the agenda", Robert said, and explained the initial aim to provide "50 per cent betterment in terms of carbon" - housing which is 50pc better than the building regulations standard. 

Robert hopes the application will reach the council's planning committee by June. Should permission be granted, he aims to break ground on the scheme - projected to take five years - in early 2022.

His ultimate aspiration is to "curate a community" by managing the site once built. 

He said: "We're not just build, sell and go. I see this development as a legacy."







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