Melrose School Heritage Assessment fails exam

Merton Council rightly requires all development proposals in a Conservation Area to be accompanied by an assessment of its heritage impact.

This was lacking in the plans to expand Melrose School and we were pleased to see an assessment provided in short time once we had pointed out the absence.

Unfortunately what has been provided would fail any exam.

The wooded character of the land occupied by schools and offices south of Church Road makes an important contribution to the Conservation Area, with significant green spaces around the various buildings.

This is recognised in Merton Council’s Conservation Area Appraisal which notes that the built form is much more open, with large footprint buildings set in open grounds” and that “trees make an important contribution to the character of the area and also contribute to environmental quality by mitigating the effects of traffic noise and counteracting the effects of pollution….. The trees on the south side of Church Road between Vicarage Gardens and Lower Green West are a major feature of the conservation area contrasting with the more urban character prevailing on of the north side of the road.

Any Heritage Assessment should address the impact of development on this sense of openness and the area’s important trees.

Given the Melrose School expansion urbanises a large part of the remaining open space in its grounds and will result in the felling of seven trees this could be expected to be a major part of the assessment. Remarkably, there is not a single mention of either trees or the loss of open space in the document and so it fails in its task to assess the impact on the area’s heritage.

The Heritage Assessment also makes a school-child error in claiming “the nearest heritage asset is the nationally designated remains of a 14th century chapel archway that was built as part of Hall Place and stands on the adjacent Cricket Green School site“. In reality the Grade II listed buildings at 60, 62 & 64 Church Road and the Vicarage of Sts Peter and Paul are both closer. As a result the assessment of the impact of the development on these designated heritage assets is missing.

These flaws undermine the credibility of the whole assessment and will need to be addressed before a decision can be made on the plans.

Our earlier post on the Melrose School expansion

Read our representations on the Melrose School expansion Melrose School development – Sep 20

Read our additional representations on the flawed Heritage Assessment Melrose School development – additional representations – Oct 20