Firstly, it is clear that, without any resistance, a huge volume of housing (largely flats) is coming our way.
The Council’s own (pending) Local Plan signs up to 17,500 ‘units’ until 2031, the Mayor wants over 19,000 and the Government would prefer nearer 30,000. No-one knows (or admits) where such properties would go?
To kick-start development, our Council successfully applied to make the South of the borough a GLA housing zone, mainly around the New Road (the old A13), which is expected to deliver over 3,000 properties (again a majority being apartments). We expect developers to push for even more and planners to agree in order to tick a housing target box.
Secondly, in order to meet these targets on only brownfield land they have to densify developments e.g. using tower blocks. They intend to go as high as 16 storeys around New Road. The promised ‘Garden Suburb’ for Beam Park will remain just a wish that was never going to come true.
Thirdly, apart from forcing residents to live cheek by jowl and all the social problems that could occur, the Government’s proposed planning changes will see some restrictions and protections disappear and threatens to impose even higher target figures upon Councils. The London Plan has already begun to relax its own guidance’s e.g. on density with more to come, and our own Council has too e.g. remove limits on heights.
Apart from cramming more properties into an area it is likely to lead to poorer quality housing. The Government’s policy of allowing developers to convert offices to housing is an example. The pressure to speed up construction will also see corners being cut as Orchard Village will testify.
Fourthly, and critically, all infrastructure e.g. schools, doctors, leisure, transport etc for new development is underfunded.
As part of the Council’s Local Plan submission there is a document called ‘Havering Community Infrastructure Levy – Infrastructure Funding Gap Levy’. The document looks at what Infrastructure requirements the Borough needs to meet the planned population growth up to 2031. It identifies 71 projects, with a total cost of £578m.
In comparison, it looks at the funds we are likely to receive from Central Government, the GLA etc plus developer contributions known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). These funds add up to £201m, in other words £376m short some 65%!
Yet in times of austerity and now Covid, even existing services are shrinking. in South Hornchurch a GP and Pharmacy promised for Orchard Village never materialised and the large Mungo Park Surgery GP service has been closed. Whilst such issues are threatening the quality of life in South Havering there are concerns that it will be replicated in Romford too (now a housing zone too)!Overall, increased competition for dwindling services will only lead to conflict. Thus we must urgently find a way to block, shape or at least mitigate the negative impacts of overdevelopment.
Our local MP (Jon Cruddas) and myself are therefore forming a steering group called PRESERVE to be the voice of those of us who see the problems ahead. We will be inviting major local figures to join from all parties and non. We will be in touch!
To take part in the Havering Daily’s poll on over development click here