Category Archives: Planning Applications

Future of Mitcham Gasworks could determine character of Mitcham

Developers are considering building 13 storey tower blocks on Mitcham Gasworks that would be fully 15meters (more than 60%) taller than the bell tower on Mitcham Parish Church.

The current plan is for no public consultation on the development until after the design has been firmed up.

This is a proposal with huge ramifications for Mitcham and here we set out the issues and our views on how Mitcham Gasworks can be developed to provide hundreds of homes more in keeping with the local area.

The locally listed gasholder on Mitcham Gasworks was demolished just before Christmas clearing the way for a major development on the edge of Mitcham’s village centre.

The decision over what gets built is already shaping up to be pivotal in deciding on the future of Mitcham.

Will Mitcham be more like Carshalton Village or take a different direction and follow Colliers Wood and Hackbridge?

Will Mitcham retain its character of low and medium rise homes built at gentle density around an historic pattern of streets and green spaces? Or are we now looking at an alternative future where high rise tower blocks create something very different?

We’re keen to see the Mitcham Gasworks site used to provide hundreds of new homes. We’ve supported it being allocated for major development in Merton Council’s new Local Plan and have now met with the prospective developers, St William who are part of the Berkeley Group.

St William have so far refused to share details of what they are considering for the site despite them being put to Merton’s Design Review Panel last month. We’re told they are being amended following the Panel’s meeting.

It seems the local community is unable to be trusted with seeing how the designs develop, and will not be given the opportunity to inform the thinking at this crucial stage. Instead a basic “consultation” event for a preferred plan is being arranged for early in 2022 – after all the main creative work in deciding what will be built has been finished.

We’re told the current plans are for 650 flats rising to a towering 13 storeys.

Only around one third of the new homes may meet the official definition of “affordable” (and even this remains out of the range of most local people) and there will be a large number of “single aspect” flats with windows on just one side.

The decision over the future of Mitcham Gasworks is too important to just wait and see what the developers come up with.

We’ve prepared a 12 point summary of our expectations for the site and how it should be developed. Key points include:

  • New buildings should be no greater than six storeys high and the scale of development should respect Merton Council’s planning expectations for no more than 400 homes on the site.
  • The design should feel like a natural extension of Mitcham, creating a new neighbourhood based on streets and avoiding alien tower blocks with no local precedent.
  • People should be able to walk and cycle but not drive through the site and it should open up new and improved routes to Church Road
  • Field Gate Lane should be widened to become a new green route for walking and cycling while respecting its historic significance.
  • At least half of all new homes should be affordable and all should be at least dual aspect
  • The history of the site should be thoroughly investigated, including the potential for Roman remains, and this should inform its design and interpretation.
  • The development should result in major investment in local community facilities, including Miles Road Playing Fields, Mitcham Community Orchard, Abbeyfield Close Recreation Area and Mitcham Parish Centre.
  • The development should be co-designed with the local community

13 storey tower blocks have no place in Mitcham and we stand ready to work with the developers and Merton Council to support an alternative development at Mitcham Gasworks which provides hundreds of new homes while respecting Mitcham’s character and meeting local community needs.

Read Mitcham gasworks – site expectations

5G monopole application for Hallowfield Way must be rejected

We’ve had the misfortune to deal with some exceptionally poor planning applications over the years but the latest proposals for a 5G telecoms mast in Hallowfield Way set a new standard.

The search for 5G sites in and around Cricket Green has been a difficult one. Proposals for the entrance to Park Place and by the Parish Church have rightly been rejected. A taller mast was permitted by the fire station with a vast array of street cabinets obstructing and cluttering the pavement. We’ve supported the need for 5G coverage in the area and proposed better locations such as industrial estates and roundabouts.

The latest scheme is for a 15m mast by Benedict School on Hallowfield Way. We’re not keen on the location on the edge of the Conservation Area, right by the school and in view of the Grade II* listed Parish Church. It’s also on a site that is going to be transformed by the new housing development on Benedict Wharf and in the middle of the line of the new tram route when it gets built. There are better sites nearby which fit the search criteria.

The most disappointing issue with the proposal is the shocking quality of what has been submitted. Remarkably the planning application:

  • locates the mast in the wrong place – putting it on Miles Road instead of Hallowfield Way
  • chooses a site which lies outside the applicant’s own search area for where a new mast must be erected to provide full 5G coverage
  • states both that there has and there has not been prior consultation with Merton Council
  • states that neighbours have been consulted when we’ve been able to find no evidence of any earlier consultation
  • argues that the mast has been put into a commercial area to avoid impact on homes when it is actually located between houses and a school and well away from any commercial buildings
  • selects a location said to have “numerous” street light columns to reduce the impact of the tall mast despite there being very few street lights in Hallowfield Way
  • provides details of seven locations which have been reviewed that concludes the Hallowfield Way site selected has been “discounted due to insufficient pavement width”

The applicant has even started work on the site before a decision on the planning application has been made.

For obvious reasons we’ve asked Merton Council to reject what’s on offer and request an application which actually makes sense.

Read our full response here 5G monopole -Hallowfield Way – Oct 21

Facelift for Bramcote Parade

Merton Council has applied for permission to restore the shopfronts on Bramcote Parade and replace the intrusive advertising.

We’ve warmly welcomed the plans which follow our success in having Bramcote Court and Parade added to the Local List in 2017.

The work is being funded by a £90,000 allocation from the money raised by the Community Infrastructure Levy which is paid by new development.

As the images show the work will have a significant and positive impact. It will restore some of the original details of the shopfronts and reinstate the distinctive curved sweep. The shops will be much more sensitively lit at night. One consequence is that the poor design, colour and build quality of the new flats being built on the other side of the road by the formers Queen’s Head will become sadly even more apparent. Merton Council expects the work on the shop fronts to be complete this year.

It is important that the new works stand the test of time and we’ve highlighted problems with similar investment at Morden Court Parade. This has seen good work undone by changes resulting from new businesses moving in only a year or two after the facelift.

Following the rejection of our efforts to have some the oldest shops in Mitcham around Fair Green locally listed last year we’re keen to see Merton Council move on to restore these as the next priority for this welcome shopfront initiative.

You can read our submission here.

 

Big change at Old Bank House

Cricket Green was briefly the commercial hub of Mitcham and the Old Bank House on Lower Green West stems from this history.

This prominent building has been underused for many years and is now the focus of a planning application to convert it into flats.

This will include extension on the sides facing both the cricket ground and Lower Green.

Done well the two extension could “complete” the building and enhance the area while doubling the floorspace. A line of coloured brick would separate the old and the new and tell the story of how it has been built.

We’ve supported the changes providing the extensions can truly match to quality of brick and stonework on the existing building. It’s a major challenge similar to that recently faced by the adjacent Cricketers flats that were required to colour match the Vestry Hall bricks.

It’s also important that the change of use doesn’t set any precedent for losing the neighbouring workshops recently vacated by London Box Sash Windows to residential. Cricket Green needs to retain business and employment at its heart and Merton’s new Local Plan should ensure this.

Any development will need to be mindful of construction impacts on the Grade II listed cottages between the Old Bank House and the Grade II listed White Hart. The historic bench mark on the Old Bank House should also be protected during construction work and into the future.

You can read our full response – Old Bank House – Feb 21.

White Hart flats plan still falls short

Merton Council is set to decide on the latest plan to repurpose the White Hart and build flats in its car park during the next few weeks.

We have long supported some development here. It can restore the Grade II listed building and re-open the pub that lies at the very heart of the Conservation Area.

Merton Council’s draft Local Plan echoes our call for the building to be used as a restaurant or pub.

Unfortunately, the best that’s on offer in the new plan is to convert most of the listed building into flats and provide an office or something similar on the ground floor.

Merton Council turned down an earlier plan that would have damaged the Conservation Area and done nothing to restore the listed building. The developer has appealed and this appeal is now pending the decision on the latest scheme.

We have been encouraged by the opportunity to meet with the architects and discuss the revised plans but remain concerned by them persisting with the planning appeal.

The latest plan provides 18 flats and is one storey lower than the previous one. Unfortunately, this does not remove its impact on the key view of the White Hart from Cricket Green. The new flats will be visible over the top of the listed building and the characteristic hipped profile of the White Hart’s sloping roofline will be lost. They will also be highly visible over London Box Sash windows from near the new Cricketers flats.

The plan to remove all 13 trees from the site and replace them with just six of unknown quality and variety is unacceptable.

It continues the worrying local trend towards felling trees without adequate replacements despite the climate and wildlife emergencies. We’ve asked for revised plans that increase the tree canopy by at least 10%. This can be easily achieved by investing in the run down land between the current car park and Broadway Gardens. This will also benefit the residents of Highfield Court. On the plus side it is good to see a change in the plans to ensure that any new development is serviced from the rear.

The development also fails to meet Merton Council’s expectation for 40% of new homes to be affordable, offers just one three-bedroomed flat instead of the six expected by planning policy and includes some “single aspect” homes which only have windows on one side.

We’re disappointed that we must object to the new plans. It is very clear what changes need to be made to deliver what everyone wants – well designed affordable homes tucked behind the White Hart to fit in with the Conservation Area, provide more trees and restore the listed White Hart as a centre piece of the area. We stand ready to work with the developer and Merton Council to secure this result.

Read our comments on the latest plan for the White Hart here.

Last chance for Benedict Wharf

The fate of Benedict Wharf and the largest development in Mitcham for generations is coming to a head. Following refusal of planning permission by Merton Council back in June the Mayor of London has taken over the decision and will cast judgment after a Representation Hearing on Tuesday 8th December.

We’ve written before about the plans for Benedict Wharf triggered by SUEZ moving its waste management operation to a new location in Beddington Lane. We’re glad to see the back of the lorries, noise and smell, and SUEZ committed itself to leaving behind a legacy to be proud of.

The reality is very different. Instead of providing a natural extension of Mitcham which meets local housing needs, SUEZ is dumping a mega development of 10 storey flats and 850 homes on the area and still failing to provide homes which are in reach of local people. Once permission is granted SUEZ will cut and run. The site will be sold to London Square, the self-professed “property company with a difference” whose team largely learned their trade at Barratt Developments.

We have commissioned new research from the influential social enterprise Create Streets which confirms our worst fears. SUEZ’s plans are a major overdevelopment of the site, they prioritise housing numbers over design quality and they ignore community preferences.

We have been dismayed to find Merton Council’s new leader, Mark Allison, has written to the Mayor supporting the plans. Remember, this scheme has been rejected by the Planning Applications Committee. It has been opposed by all three Cricket Green ward councillors and local MP, Siobhain McDonagh has described it as “an extraordinary overdevelopment of the site”. Siobhain is speaking against the plans at the Hearing. For all this to be undermined by the Council’s leadership is truly shocking.

The Mayor’s officers have admitted that “that the proposed development would alter the setting of the Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area” and cause “harm”. They have also recommended not only that permission is granted but that the detailed plans that follow should provide no fewer than 840 homes. Their report barely pays lip service to the concerns of the local community articulated over many years.

As a result we have called on the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, to intervene and call-in the planning decision. The Government has recently amended the London Plan to support “gentle densification” in areas like Mitcham and the Benedict Wharf plans ride roughshod over this new approach before it is even out of the starting blocks. This is the last line of defence against a damaging decision being made that will scar Mitcham for decades.

Benedict Wharf is the largest of a flood of proposals for new flats all within 10 minutes walk of the cricket ground. Our efforts to protect trees and green spaces, provide truly affordable homes and protect the Conservation Area is putting extra demands on our charitable resources. We have launched a crowdfunder to raise £1,500 to support this work.

If you would like to turn the tide on damaging development then please make donation.

Read our representations to the Mayor’s Hearing on Benedict Wharf, including the independent critique by Create Streets Benedict Wharf – Mayoral Representation Hearing

Read our request to the Secretary of State to call-in the planning application  Benedict Wharf – call in request