Redeveloping historic sites or listed buildings is always highly sensitive, and for Havering, which is embarking on major regeneration plans, great care is needed with all planning applications to ensure the borough's history and heritage remains intact. Noella Pio Kivlehan reports
With over a thousand years of history, and home to numerous Kings and Queens such as Henry VIII, it is not surprising redevelopment in Havering’s towns and open spaces inevitably triggers the debate of how new fits with old.
On a weekly basis, the council’s planning services department deals with applications potentially affecting heritage assets, including 11 conservation areas. Regardless of size, all need to be considered for their impact, and whether they are locally, or nationally-listed.
And given that the borough is embarking on its £3 billion regeneration plans, council leader, Damian White is adamant that in pushing ahead with new development there is an overriding need “to preserve the historical elements of our towns.”
The huge regeneration plans, launched in 2017, cover three major joint ventures in partnership with the council: Notting Hill Genesis; Wates Residential, and First Base with Savills Investment Management.
These JVs will see thousands of new homes built, and jobs created in Havering, along with new transport and infrastructure.
Central to the regeneration is a major facelift for Romford, the heart of Havering. It, like other places in the borough such as Rainham and Havering-atte- Bower, has history dating back over a thousand years. “In the 1960s many historic buildings were knocked down and lost through development.
“What we want to do going forward is not only preserve that history, but embrace the future by championing quality developments and focus on what could be the new [buildings and garden] suburbs for the next century,” says White.
He adds: “Whatever is built today, my ambition is that in 50 - 100 years someone will stop, look at them and say they are of quality, they are a product of the time. They are something unique that adds to the built environment of the town, the community.”
Simon Thelwell is projects and regulations manager in the council’s planning service that deals with major planning applications, planning enforcement and building control. This includes applications where the heritage aspects need to be considered, protecting landmarks and listed buildings, and protecting the greenery already there. These can be nationally-listed such as Grade I, II, or locally-listed within the borough (see panel).
Given Romford town centre’s conservation area is a cluster of listed buildings around the Market Place, which in turn dates back to 1247 during the reign of King Henry III, Thelwell says there is need for special care in relation to new development on that space.
“We would want to ensure those [historic buildings] were protected as much as possible and new buildings close to those are sympathetic in terms of their scale,” says Thelwell, adding, “we wouldn’t be looking for new development to follow the design necessarily, because they were of their time. But there may, for example, be issues where the tallest elements of certain buildings might be sited.”
While Market Place is a historic site, Thelwell admits the buildings around them: “aren’t necessarily the best, so there are opportunities to improve the setting of that [historic] space. Whoever the developer might be they would have to design buildings that sit well within [their historical context] so they need a design team that can do this. Design quality is crucial.”
Thelwell says the council is especially keen to examine the old layout of the town and what was lost through previous developments to see if it is worth reintroducing. Referencing the masterplan, which is now under way for Romford, Thelwell says: “One of the issues is around the River Rom, which you can’t see, although it’s there. There’s several planned developments along it, and we would want them to create a route by the river, improving its environmental quality, while reintroducing something that historically has been lost.”
Consultation on how the future of Romford will look over the next few decades got under way in January.