Plans for 1,380 homes on Waterloo Estate granted after tight vote
- Credit: Havering Council/Wates Regeneration LLP
Plans to build 1,380 homes on Romford's Waterloo Estate have been given the green light.
The proposal - fiercely debated by Havering Council's strategic planning committee last night (June 17) - required a casting vote following a four by four stalemate from members.
In a lengthy meeting, councillors from five political parties discussed the merits of the application, which intends to add 1,380 homes across ten blocks.
In the end, chairman Cllr Dilip Patel (Con, Mawneys) cast the deciding vote in favour of the development.
That gave permission for what's known as a hybrid application, meaning the council has signed off on full planning permission for one part of the site and approved outline planning permission for another.
This is how the application was submitted by developer Wates Residential, with the Waterloo Estate one of 12 areas that is part of a regeneration programme being delivered in partnership with the council.
The site is bounded by London Road to the north, Waterloo Road to the east and Cotleigh Road to the west.
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With blocks ranging from single to 16 storeys tall, there will be net increase of 1,090 units (because the existing site previously comprised of 290 homes).
This makes up the total 1,380 unit offering.
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The development will consist of 40 per cent affordable housing, alongside 212 social rented units, 197 affordable rent units and 147 intermediate units.
It will be split into two phases; the first relates to the part of the application for which full planning permission was sought.
That phase will see 370 homes built across two blocks of between six and 16 storeys tall.
The second phase would see the construction of an additional eight blocks between a single and 14 storeys high.
Given its size, the committee scrutinised a number of aspects of the development, which was also opposed by Andrew Curtin speaking on behalf of the Romford Civic Society.
The five main considerations - as summarised by Havering's assistant director of planning, Helen Oakerbee - were tall buildings, the impact on Cotleigh Road, the play space component, cycle connections, and listed buildings.
All five issues - particularly the first three which were discussed in great detail - led Cllrs Reg Whitney, Graham Williamson, Keith Darvill and Linda Hawthorn to vote against the proposal.
Hugh Jeffery, regional development director for Wates Residential, said: “This scheme includes modern, energy-efficient homes, open green spaces for playing and relaxing, and workspaces to promote flexible ways of living and working."
He said construction is expected for the beginning of next year.
The inclusion of 16-storey blocks concerned Mr Curtin, who feared they would create a "chaotic landscape".
Cllr Reg Whitney (Residents' Group, Hacton) shared that view, arguing the height "doesn’t complement the town centre at all”.
Ms Oakerbee confirmed there is no legal limit on the height of buildings.
Another issue raised related to how blocks nine and 10 could impact properties on Cotleigh Road.
This stems from objections expressed during the consultation process, where residents expressed concern that those blocks would overlook into the rear windows and gardens of their properties.
When asked by Cllr Tim Ryan (Con, Brooklands), Ms Oakerbee said of the 25 objections received, 15 were sent by residents of Cotleigh Road.
The play space component
The amount of children's play space included in the application was a contentious issue.
Ms Oakerbee acknowledged that it is residents' "preference" to have play space on site, but that having a park nearby is "an acceptable way of mitigating that shortfall" (according to the London Plan).
Cottons Park is the intended park for this purpose, with Mr Curtin arguing that the promise of extra spending is "inadequate”.
Cllr Williamson (Independent Residents' Group, South Hornchurch) believes the park is "not a suitable alternative", while Cllr Darvill (Labour, Heaton) said the main road between the development and park would act as a "barrier".
Cllr Hawthorn (Upminster and Cranham Residents' Group, Upminster) argued that "it's not on" to use a public park to compensate for a lack of children's play space.
A statement released by Havering Council after the approval said "at the heart of the scheme" is public open space, with a village garden, 159 trees, bat and bird boxes and bug hotels.
Despite voting against, Cllr Darvill did credit Wates as a "good developer", alongside praising the environmental aspects of the proposal.
While he was one of four to vote against, the remaining committee members - chairman Cllr Patel and Cllrs Ryan, Carol Smith and Ray Best - voted in favour.
With the chairman's decisive vote, the application was granted subject to conditions.
Cllr Roger Ramsey, cabinet member for finance and property, released a statement on the approval: “Waterloo and Queen Street sits in the heart of Romford, where a new high-quality community will be created for residents of Havering to live and thrive.
“What’s more, this scheme will result in significant social, economic and environmental benefits to the surrounding area, with millions of pounds being invested in buying British through local businesses to create new opportunities for people in the area."
Since it started in 2018, the £1.5 billion Havering and Wates Joint Venture aims to see at least 3,500 new homes built in Havering over the next 12 to 15 years.