Merton’s “Green Belt” at risk on Imperial Fields

2020 has barely begun, and is already looking like a watershed year for the local area with a record number of live planning applications for blocks of flats to be developed across the neighbourhood.

These include plans for 77 flats in a six storey development on Imperial Fields along Bishopsford Road. This is on the Sutton boundary and would involve the development of one of Merton’s most protected areas of green land.

Merton is one of the greenest boroughs in London due in large part to the designation of large areas of green space as Metropolitan Open Land. This has the same level of protection as Green Belt. It cannot be developed unless “very special circumstances” can be demonstrated and it receives the “strongest protection” in the London Plan. Metropolitan Open Land is also protected in Merton’s Local Plan.

The Imperial Fields scheme is promoted by the owner of The Hub on the grounds that it will support investment in sports and community facilities on the site.

We welcome the community offer provided by The Hub but on closer inspection the plans fall well short of meeting the test of “very special circumstances”.

Contrary to claims that “we are not a commercial company” the applicant, Tooting and Mitcham Leisure Ltd is a private company limited by shares controlled by and dependent on a £1m + loan from a property developer. It is not a charity and the planning application lacks legal guarantees that investment on The Hub’s facilities will follow.

It is also apparent that the new development could generate funds for only a small part of the investment needed at The Hub. Given their community emphasis we are also disappointed that the applicant did not engage local people in the plans before they were submitted.

The development itself will be very intrusive for the surrounding open land which forms part of the important green corridor along the Wandle Valley and includes Poulter Park. The design lacks distinction and ignores the character of other buildings in the local area. The plans also introduce a large area of surface car parking on what is currently green space.

We are pleased that Sutton Council has registered objections and have alerted Mayor Khan to the plans.

Read our views in full Imperial Fields – January 2020