Spotlight on Romford
A £35m injection is bringing riverside workspace and thousands of new homes to this Essex town in the Crossrail vanguard. By
AS ONE of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s 30 Housing Zones, the Essex commuter town of Romford is due to get investment of nearly £35 million from the Greater London Authority, with the aspiration of unlocking the finance to build more than 3,300 new homes and provide nearly 7,000 new jobs.
First off the block is likely to be a joint venture between the local council, Havering, and developer First Base, on the Bridge Close site that sits on the edge of the town centre between Waterloo Road and the River Rom. The plan is to build 840 new homes, a health centre, a school and commercial workspaces.
Proposals include a new bridge across the Rom to improve access to the station, where the forecourt is getting a £1.4 million facelift ahead of the muchanticipated arrival of the Elizabeth line in December.
As estate agent Max Harding from local firm Balgores says, Romford is coming up in the world. This is in no small part thanks to young entrepreneur Sarah Walters, who in a few short years has gone from jotting down her ideas in a notebook in her bedroom to managing a creative agency employing 16 people.
In those years her agency, called Made Public, has commissioned leading street artists including Eine — former prime minister David Cameron gave an example of his work to Barack Obama; revitalised The Quadrant, a tired shopping arcade, by encouraging start-up businesses include Lockie’s Kitchen opened by Towie star James Lock, and put on street theatre festivals and music and comedy events.
The Retailery in Market Place is Sarah’s small business hub. Home to a buzzy café, independent restaurants and a not-for-profit bar, it also acts as a shop window for creative launches, a live music venue, and in the basement is an entrepreneurial “incubator” where start- ups can develop their ideas.
Sarah, 30, says: “I went to Goldsmiths to do Fine Art and History of Art and there they drill into you that art is for everyone, so after graduating in 2009 I came back to Romford, my home town, and asked myself the question, ‘Where will I find everyone?’ And back came the answer — in the town centre.”
Romford is close to the A12 London to Lowestoft road. It is 16 miles northeast of central London with Chigwell and Brentford to the north, Hornchurch and Upminster to the east, Dagenham to the south and Ilford to the west.
Sheila Coombes at Robins Pie & Mash Shop, Romford. There are six branches of the traditional family business in the East End and Essex
Richard Ward’s Italian Kitchen; Jaspal Kaur’s Jas’ Punjabi Kitchen, and Purvesh Patel of Tad’s Diner
East is best:
Cool for cuts: Jamie La-Rocque, owner of Larox Barbershop in Quadrant Arcade