Monthly Archives: November 2013

Council plans for floodlit games area at Canons return

Merton Council has resurrected plans to build a floodlit multi use games area on the currently disused tennis courts at the Canons.

This is the most shocking development proposal we have seen in Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area for some time and we’re utterly dumbfounded that it comes not from a private developer but from the council – who really should know better how to work within the Conservation Area.

In our view this plan is entirely inappropriate. 

• It will cause significant harm to the special quality of Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area and harm the setting of two listed mansion houses – Park Place and Canons

• Seven days a week floodlighting will cause serious light pollution and sky glow at the heart of the area

• There will be serious harm to wildlife, including impacts on legally protected bats

• It will cause a significant loss of important trees and habitats – including damage to a copse valued at £126,000 for the community – which is not adequately compensated for by new planting

• Alternative facilities are available nearby and under-used – Merton Council’s own research concludes “there is significantly better provision in Mitcham and Colliers Wood than other parts of the borough”

• This development is has been put forward by Merton Council despite being knowingly in conflict with its own planning policies – it has been advertised as a “departure application”

• Claimed support for the development is based on a public survey undertaken in the nearby leisure centre – akin to asking visitors to McDonald’s if they like Big Macs

• There is no commitment to make provision for free use of the facilities by the local community – as was available with the former tennis courts

We are entirely supportive of encouraging sporting uses for the Canons area. we’re proud of its rich sporting history and want to see the spaces used by local people for sporting and leisure activities.

We would love to see the tennis courts brought back into use, and would be delighted to support and help fundraise for a scheme that re-uses the former tennis courts without floodlighting.

Our objection to the flootlit multi use games area

More information about this planning application

 

Council rejects Mitcham canopy in 8 to 1 vote

Last night Merton’s Planning Committee rejected plans to put a canopy on Fair Green in a decisive eight to one vote.

The canopy, initially presented as a covered market which could also be used for community events was seen as badly designed and not fit for the purpose intended. Even Merton’s own officers, in their report to the planning committee, admitted it was not suitable for community events.

The Council’s own Design Review Panel decision to give the canopy a Red rating last week played an important part. We reported on its meeting last week.

We were shocked to see how much the Merton Council’s planning officer appeared to be acting as an advocate for the project rather than supporting councillors by providing the  information needed for them to make a planning decision. It is very important when a planning committee is dealing with the council’s own developments for there to be a clear division between the council officers acting as developers and those servicing the planning committee.

It was very clear that the quality and timing of the application owed more to the availability of external funding than to providing a well designed and effective structure for Mitcham town centre.

Let’s be clear about our position. As our representative said a the planning committee we want Mitcham to be a success. We want to see thriving businesses, and Fair Green as a hub of activity. But like the Design Review Panel we think the canopy was poorly designed and ill conceived. As so many people said at the planning committee – Mitcham deserves better. 

Our comments on planning application for canopy on Fair Green

We have submitted our views on the proposed canopy for Fair Green to the Council’s planning applications committee.

If you read our post from yesterday – Fair Green canopy gets thumbs down from Design Review Panel, you will know that the Council’s own Design Review Panel has given the canopy ‘red’ status – indicating the Panel’s displeasure at its design aspects.

Our comments give our own views on the design, and make other points including:

  • We have serious concerns about the manner in which the planning application has been handled, including significant points about the order in which certain processes have been carried out
  • We have concerns about the level of detail in the information which has been submitted, which we feel is insufficient
  • We have concerns about the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the canopy
  • We note that even the council itself has cast doubt on the potential for the canopy’s use for community events

Read our comments on the proposed canopy for Mitcham Fair Green.

The planning applications committee is on 7 November at 7:15 at the Civic Centre, Morden. The meeting is open to the public.

Fair Green canopy gets thumbs down from Design Review Panel

Last night (31 October) we attended Merton’s Design Review Panel.

This committee includes architects and others who know about building design. Its role is to look at planning applications, either before they are lodged with the council or while they are live, and give guidance on their design quality.

On 31 October it looked, for the second time, at the proposals for a canopy for Mitcham market at Fair Green. This has been put forward by Merton Council as part of a much wider range of plans under the umbrella of Rediscover Mitcham.

Seen it all before

The Design Review Panel had seen the market canopy before – in July. At that time the canopy had not been formally submitted as a planning application – it was in the ‘pre application’ phase, and the Design Review Panel meeting was in private.

Its notes were only published after the canopy became a live planning application, and only made available with the other materials relevant to the planning application after we had put in a Freedom of Information request.

Meeting in public

This time, because the canopy is now a live planning application, the Design Review Panel met in public. People were allowed to attend and observe – but not to speak. We had a representative at the meeting, and we can tell you what we heard.

Note as you read what follows that the official report is not yet published. It has to be written up by an officer of the council and then approved by the panel members.

What the Design Review Panel said

As you read our report of what the Design Review Panel said, bear in mind that it gives every application it considers a rating – green, amber or red. Green is good. No application wants to be rated red. Last time the market canopy got an amber rating.

These are some of the key points we heard at the meeting:

  • This is a building being made by the local authority and should be to the highest standard to set an example for others. It is far from being a high standard building.
  • The use of polycarbonate (a type of plastic) for the roof is a bad idea. It ages quickly – about ten years was suggested, and is not suited to permanent structures.
  • The buildings at Fair Green surrounding the market space are generally of a low architectural standard, and this new one would do nothing to change that – one person used the word ‘shed’ to describe it, another said it looked like ‘a cheap bus shelter’, another that it was going to get ‘tatty’.

Despite being invited by the chair to say something positive about the canopy and to offer constructive support for the design, nobody on the panel seemed to have a good word for it.

The canopy was given a red rating.

What next?

We hope the notes of the Design review Panel meeting are written up fast, because the next step for the canopy is the Planning Applications Committee on 7 November

We think it is vital that all the Councillors on the Planning Applications Committee see the full report to help inform its decision.

As things currently stand, Merton’s Officers have recommended to allow the canopy. Their own report on the planning application was published before the Design Review Panel met. We think this shows complete disregard for the panel. The officers report was also published before the deadline for all public comments, showing disregard for what the public say too.

All this has happened, we think, because Officers want to rush the canopy through the planning system so they can spend the money to build it by the deadline that’s been imposed by the external funding source.

The shortage of time does not, in our mind, excuse bad practice, and we have taken our concerns up at the highest level within the council. Just as a member of the Design Review Panel said council builds should be of the highest quality, we believe council planning applications should be dealt with to the highest standards, and Merton council has fallen well short.

Still time to comment

Although the official deadline for comments is 1 November, Merton council does tend to accept comments made after that, so if you feel strongly after reading this you may still contact the council and make your views known – but be quick as the planning committee meets on 7 November.

All the information you need on how to do this is at Merton Council’s web site, and the planning application number is 13/P2575.