London Ambulance Service (LAS) has paused plans to replace four ambulance stations in east London with a single deployment centre.

The proposals – part of a broader plan to replace 68 stations across the capital with 18 deployment centres – would have seen stations in Romford, Ilford, Becontree and Hornchurch closed.

Plans were announced in June and a site for the new deployment centre was identified in Wantz Road, Dagenham, with the LAS in discussion with Barking and Dagenham Council about planning permission.

But the scheme has now been put on hold and the planning application withdrawn.

In a letter to staff on September 29 seen by this paper, Daniel Elkeles, chief executive of LAS, explained that the period ahead looked to be “the most challenging winter we will face” and said that pausing the plans would allow the service to devote its resources to “supporting our frontline operations”.

He noted that there had previously been more urgency to “progress our estates vision in north east London”, with the Romford Ambulance Station site in Bridge Close designated for major regeneration.

There are plans for more than 1,000 homes, shop space and a primary school in Bridge Close.

However, Mr Elkeles wrote that Havering Council had confirmed that the service does not need to vacate the site until 2023/24, allowing LAS to pause its plan for a new deployment centre.

Mr Elkeles said that the service could "pick up these exciting plans again at a more suitable time.”

“Over the winter, we will review our existing estate and focus on developing a high-level plan for the future,” he said.

Ilford South MP Sam Tarry, who was vocal in his opposition to the plans when they were first announced, raised concerns that the plans could still be carried forward in the future.

He said: “My priority will always be to protect the interests of my constituents. For that reason I have requested an urgent meeting with LAS to seek clarity on their plans.

“If I have reason to believe that those plans are not in the interests of Ilford South residents or the LAS workforce, I will have no choice but to launch a public campaign opposing them.”