A mistaken choice?-Councillor’s Corner by Graham Williamson.

Havering now has three Government commissioned Covid Testing Centres in the borough i.e. Romford (Town Hall), Harold Hill (Central Park) and South Hornchurch (Cherry Tree Car Park).

While all of us will welcome more testing facilities both nationally and locally there is a growing concern amongst local residents that the location in South Hornchurch/Rainham was made in haste and was a mistaken choice. There are various reasons.

Firstly, there is a concern that potentially infected citizens going to the site for a test, whether by appointment or chance, may very well pass that infection into the surrounding shops. Quite a few locals say they are boycotting them as a precaution. This has already affected local shops owners of whom are telling us their turnover has already begin to fall.

Secondly, by removing the car parking facility in Cherry Tree, businesses are now worried that there is nowhere for their customers to park, especially those visiting restaurants of an evening. The Council has suggested that customers could use the nearby Library parking. However this is very limited and for anyone outside the immediate area its’ existence will be unknown. These potential customers will either come into conflict with local residents by parking in front of their properties or will simply drive on and shop/eat elsewhere. All in all the future looks bleak for local businesses.

To quote just some of our local businesses “I am personally down 60% this week and God knows how much this week”, “Our business has suffered these past few months, as everyone else has, and this is yet another blow”, or “I am concerned at the risk of infection to my staff by people wanting to be tested using local shops and potential spreading the virus in this small area”.

Furthermore, it is disappointing that the location was not consulted with local councillors let alone residents and we were only advised on a Friday afternoon when ‘construction’ of the Centre had already begun. I have been trying to ascertain who chose the location but no-one is putting their hands up. We suspect it was Havering Council but, whoever made the choice, they did not think it through. 

There are/were plenty of alternatives in the area e.g. the Country Park car park site opposite Travis Perkins (a few minutes away and nowhere near shops), Bretons, or Harrow Lodge Park etc.etc. Whatever the motivation or thought process of the decision maker and assuming stubbornness will prevent a change of heart, I just hope we still have our local shops in Cherry Tree by the time this Centre is no longer required! 

Councillor Graham Williamson Independent Residents Group South Hornchurch

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