Merton’s Local Plan – friend or foe?

Question – What do the following have in common? The fate of Mitcham cricket pavilion. Proposals for over 1,000 new flats within 10 minutes walk of the cricket ground. The future of the Wilson Hospital. Having shopping parades on London Road and Bramcote Avenue. Protecting Mitcham’s greens and village character. Keeping business and jobs alive in workshops on Lower Green West. Enjoying the avenue of trees on Three Kings Piece. Whether new tower blocks will be built in Mitcham. How many local people can afford new homes in Cricket Green. Proposals for a new road built across Mitcham Common for heavy lorries?

Answer – Merton’s new Local Plan

The fate of all of this and more depends on developers getting planning permission to make changes to our neighbourhood. The main guide to whether planning permission is given is the planning policy in Merton’s Local Plan. The Local Plan is now up for review and a new set of draft policies has been published which will last till 2035. The new Plan also earmarks eighteen sites around Mitcham for development.

It is no surprise, therefore, that a new Local Plan has prompted our most comprehensive representations yet to Merton Council about how it should plan for new building, support the community and protect the heritage, open spaces and wildlife that makes Cricket Green so special. Too much of our neighbourhood has been changing for the worse, forever, as a result of poorly located and designed new buildings and conversions and the unnecessary loss of trees, green space and heritage.

The new Local Plan is a chance to turn this around. With a strong approach driven by local needs and priorities it can be the friend that will care for Cricket Green, raise standards and turn away those who will damage our neighbourhood. In the wrong hands it could turn out to be Cricket Green’s worst enemy. We’ve set out our stall for what needs to happen. One thing is clear – much more work is needed on the Local Plan to make it fit for purpose.

Our 12,000 word submission includes proposals which seek the following:

  • Policies which can actually deliver on the Plan’s strong ambitions, including to remove disparities between the east and west of the Borough, rather than leave them as an undeliverable wish list.
  • Putting protection of Merton’s green spaces, wildlife and heritage assets at the heart of a “Spatial Vision” that currently omits them.
  • Recognising Mitcham’s village character as the centrepiece of its planning policies with a broader focus on social, community, cultural, environmental and heritage and less emphasis on encouraging anywheresville high street brands.
  • Policies to protect an inventory of identified community assets, neighbourhood shopping parades and scattered employment sites in Mitcham.
  • The addition of the Merton Dementia Hub site following announcement of its closure as a new allocation with the potential for community-led housing.
  • Strengthening 13 other development site allocations, including securing community ownership of Mitcham cricket pavilion and development at The Wilson which respects its heritage and open space.
  • Deleting the site allocations for the former Canons nursery and Raleigh Gardens car park as undeliverable following the closure of Merantun Development Ltd.
  • Deleting the site allocation at Imperial Fields which continues to be designated as Metropolitan Open Land, Green Corridor and Open Space.
  • Major strengthening of the Plan’s approach to securing high quality design, including preparation of a Design Code for Mitcham Cricket Green.
  • Recognising Mitcham’s registered Town Greens as heritage assets and identifying The Canons as one of a new local list Merton historic parks and gardens.
  • Protecting the panoramic Wandle Vista on Mitcham Common identified in award winning research.
  • Proving more protection for scattered employment sites and supporting environmental improvements on Willow Lane Industrial estate.
  • An overhaul of Merton’s weak planning policies for protecting trees, supporting an accelerated increase in the tree canopy and measures to ensure any essential tree felling is accompanied by new planting of trees of greater value.
  • Deleting the dinosaur road scheme providing another access to Willow Lane Industrial Estate which was rejected in the 1990s and which would cause unnecessary loss of Mitcham Common and damage to the Conservation Area at Aspen Gardens.
  • Providing for improved cycling conditions along Commonside West without losing any part of Three Kings Piece to a cycle lane.
  • Six additional proposals for improvements to Cricket Green’s public realm and for people on foot.
  • Strengthening policy to secure an increase in truly affordable homes and require all new homes to have opening windows in at least two different elevations.
  • A major edit to address the draft Plan’s myriad errors, grammatical mistakes and omissions and provide a structure and approach that makes sense to all who will need to use it.
  • Further public consultation on a Plan that looks at least the required 15 years ahead and is supported by much stronger evidence to back up its approach.
  • An overhaul of the measures to ensure delivery of the Plan is effectively monitored and reviewed.

You can delve deeper into our full submission here.