'Concrete Cancer', a developer who's abandoned the site, a ploy to keep house prices down... I've heard a lot of rumours about the unfinished construction site on North Street.
Construction appeared to restart a few months back, with a concrete structure quickly going up opposite the RUSSC club. A number of residents, and I, were concerned that this would also sit unfinished. So, seeing as I'm now one of the local Councillors for the site, I thought I'd contact the developer and get a tour of the site.
The Site Location and Planning Permission
The shell on North Street is just one part of a larger site. The development will extend from the edge of St Edward's way, opposite the RUSSC club, right up to North Street. Angel Way will still run, as it does, along the south border of the site and then adjacent to the North Street shell.
It's a really prime piece of land, about 100m from Romford's market square and just 400m from the railway station.
The planning permission for the site is for around 350 homes, a 63 bed hotel, and retail. There will also be a new office for local police. This includes a 16 storey tower and blocks of around 6 to 8 storeys in height.
The homes will be higher end than what Romford usually has. There are plans for rooftop gardens, balconies on every home, solar panels and large underground parking facility accessed from Angel Way opposite the North Street shell. Around 50 of the homes will be classed as affordable.
A new street of retail will run from alongside the Methodist church up to Angel way, with a public square being placed at the Cafe Chateau end.
What's Happening Now?
To be honest, I was pleased with what I was shown on my visit
Work on the North Street shell is underway, the structure is in good shape and won't need to be torn down to be turned in to homes and retail. I was taken up that block and from there was able to see the rest of the site, usually hidden behind the hoarding.
At the moment, aside from the new structure, it's a huge hole. However, there is more to it than that. The development includes a massive underground car park, which requires them digging out the site. This is well underway and they're also putting piles in to the ground to support the new buildings to go on top.
I was pleased to see the developer drilling these piles, as opposed to the much more disruptive hammering that some sites use. Having been on a good few construction sites, I can also say that this team have done a good job at keeping the site clean, as well as the roads around it. They should be commended for that.
The North Street shell is set for completion in September / October 2023 and the whole development will be done around a year later in 2024. (If I noted the dates down correctly).
Does Romford Need This?
In short, Yes, I think it does.
In order to survive, Romford must develop a mix of different levels of retail and homes. If we only build at the low end, then we can only expect the high-street to remain at the low end.
It's likely that those living in these homes will be paying a high level of Council Tax, without taking much from the Council. Presuming these are Band C properties, 350 of them will generate £612,000 a year in extra Council Tax for Havering. That's a big chunk of money. The residents will also, hopefully, spend in Romford.
This isn't going to be easy for the developer. They're going to need to convince people to spend good money to buy a luxury home in Romford. But I'm hopeful they can pull it off.
The new hotel could also be a welcome addition. We're seeing a few hotels pop up in Romford. Some more desirable than others. But tourists mean money spent in our town.
It's now vital that the Council deliver a high-street to match.