Category Archives: Planning Applications

Cold water for plans to develop car wash site

Plans to develop a five storey block of flats have been put forward for the car wash site on London Road at the junction with Broadway Gardens.

The development includes 19 flats and makes provision for retail or office use at street level, including a hot food take away.

The car wash is in a sensitive location right on the edge of the Conservation Area, opposite the Grade II listed Burn Bullock and in view of the historic cricket ground.

We support residential development on the site and have put it forward for inclusion in Merton Council’s new Local Plan. We are keen for the ground floor to be used to extend the existing retail parade and for any new building to respect the height of the existing buildings along London Road.

Unfortunately, the developers have come forward with a scheme almost as high as that permitted for the former Kwik Fit site on the other side of Broadway Gardens.

Their own drawings show just how out of keeping this will be, especially when combined with whatever eventually gets developed on the Kwik Fit site.

The design approach is every day and ubiquitous. It fails to respond to to the rich character of the surrounding neighbourhood and the upper two floors in particular are poorly executed, with intrusive balconies, poor use of materials and an incongruous white colour which cannot be found elsewhere in the area.

The development will also overlook existing houses in Broadway Gardens and makes no provision for any parking. It even tries to avoid putting any affordable housing on site and proposes giving Merton Council a meagre £120,000 to provide this elsewhere.

The planned hot food take away is also controversial. There are already three nearby and Mayor Khan’s new London Plan is clear that no hot food take aways should be permitted within 400m of a school. The car wash is just 210m from Saints Peter and Paul Primary School.

Once again we find ourselves having to object to a poorly designed and overly large development brought forward without any effort to talk to the local community. We look forward to an opportunity to work with the owners to help design a sensitive development for this site.

Read our full response – 370-374 London Road – Dec 19

Red light for old fire station hoardings

The new owner of the old fire station has submitted a planning application for hoardings to be erected for a year while they sort out what is going to happen with the now empty building.

As anyone walking round the area will know there are already hoardings on the site which have been erected without permission.

We are strongly objecting to the plans.

They enclose a large area of land in front of the old fire station which has nothing to do with providing security for an empty building.

The effect will be to block views across Lower Green West, damage the special setting of the listed war memorial and impinge on the surroundings of the locally listed fire station and Vestry Hall.

Remarkably, the area proposed for the hoardings is all owned by Merton Council and not the applicants.

We have asked our local councillors to ensure that, as responsible landowners, Merton Council puts a halt to such unnecessary and damaging proposals even before a decision is made on the planning application.

Read our representations – Fire station hoardings – Dec 19

Find out what we have said about plans for the fire station itself – Old Mitcham fire station plans a non-starter

See how we wanted to transform the old fire station – Mitcham’s cultural revolution

Architects confirm negative impact of Mitcham scheme on Conservation Area

Plans to demolish and replace a large stretch of Mitcham’s shops on Upper Green East alongside Barclays Bank with a four storey block are being considered by Merton Council.

The scheme will set the precedent for future development around Fair Green and we believe it is both too high and lacks design quality.

It also fails to provide a single affordable home in any of the 20 flats.

The architects have made some minor changes in response to feedback from Mitcham Society and ourselves.

The changes fail to address the fundamental problem that the new building is too large, too high and too poorly designed for Mitcham’s centre.

There is even a suggestion that adding lavender mosaic tiles somehow represents an adequate response to the historic character of the area.

The new information also includes a new image that confirms the impact on the Conservation Area from near Three Kings Pond.

The architects believe the scheme will be “just visible”.

We believe the image confirms the creation of an intrusive bland elevation which doesn’t fit with the existing pitched roofline. Have a look and see what you think.

 

Read our original representation and our updated one

Is this the future of Mitcham’s village centre?

We’re backing the Mitcham Society in its efforts to retain a village feel in central Mitcham.

Merton’s new Local Plan has a key role to play by controlling the height of new development and respecting the modest plot sizes which avoid bulky buildings that dominate the street.

Our fear is that damaging development will happen before the Local Plan comes into force.

The risk is real and we are now faced with plans to demolish and replace the parade of shops running along Upper Green East from Barclays Bank with a four storey block of flats and shops promised beneath.

The redevelopment of 33-39 Upper Green East is the first major scheme in Mitcham for years.

It needs to set the standard for the future and establish the right precedents. Instead we have a bulky block of flats using designs that could be found anywhere and owe little to the rich heritage of Mitcham.

They will dominate the visual link between Fair Green and the Conservation Area at Three Kings Pond and erode rather than add to Mitcham’s character.

The developers also plead poverty over development costs and propose to provide no affordable homes.

We are asking Merton Council to demand better and reject what’s on offer. Mitcham is going to change over the next few years. It contains underused land and some poor quality buildings. This change must avoid development of ubiquitous design and provide an opportunity to strengthen its village character and draw on its rich history.

You can read a full copy of our representations here.

Old Mitcham fire station plans a non-starter

The future of the much loved old fire station by the Vestry Hall has been uncertain ever since London Fire Brigade moved to the shiny new building over the tram line.

We developed plans with a theatre company for a community arts centre but they were thwarted by Merton Council being unwilling to take up its right of first refusal on sale of the fire station before it went on the open market.

After much delay the old fire station was sold to Parkside Property Limited for just £670,000. Its plans for new flats were then considered by Merton Council’s Design Review Panel behind closed doors.

The plans are now public and they fail on all counts.

They are technically flawed in taking land owned by Merton Council without even notifying them. They fence off and tarmac an area of registered town green. They are supported by a “heritage assessment” which fails even to identify the adjacent war memorial as Grade II listed. And they block off land where the Deed of Assurance under which the land was originally transferred requires “a right of way on foot only at all times”.

This means the planning application should be summarily dismissed even before considering its impact on the Conservation Area.

The plans involve a large extension to the rear and the loss of the historic engine bay in the locally listed fire station. They present an incongruous elevation to the listed war memorial and sit awkwardly alongside the Vestry Hall. They will also introduce fencing, lighting, bin stores and other visual clutter where there should be none.

We’re keen for the old fire station to be put to good use. A modest development which respects the sensitivity of this prominent site at the heart of the Conservation Area is needed. We look forward to working with the new owners once planning permission for this scheme has been refused.

You can read our full comments on the plans for the former Mitcham fire station here

Merantun – seeking inspiration and respect from Merton Council’s own development company

Merton Council established Merantun as its own development company in 2017.

Many local authorities now have development companies and we have welcomed Merantun as providing Merton Council with the ability to intervene directly in the development of land and to raise the bar when it comes to the quality of new building.

Two years on Merantun is about to put in planning applications for flats and other residential development on four sites where Merton Council owns the land. These include the former nursery at The Canons (image above) and Raleigh Garden car park (image below).

We have reviewed the plans and found them wanting.

They highlight deeper weaknesses in the way Merantun has been set up and operates. Instead of tasking Merantun with improving the quality of design, setting new standards for community engagement and intervening on difficult sites, its sole purpose is to “generate income for the Council.” In other words it operates like any other private developer. It also takes away capacity from the vital Future Merton team at Merton Council with senior staff now working for Merantun for much of the week.

We hope and expect Merantun to engage local people in its plans and show others how this can be done well. Instead, it chose to have its first schemes examined by Merton’s Design Review Panel behind closed doors and gave less than 48 hours notice of an exhibition of its proposals held at the height of the August holiday period. It then failed to make any of the exhibition material available online. This is worse practice than most private developers we engage with over emerging development.

Originally, Merantun’s intended each of its four sites to be designed by different architects. This could have provided innovation and new thinking. In then end its procurement was too weak and they are all designed as a job lot by architect giant Weston Williamson.

The Merantun contract is a small one for such a large company and it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

Merantun is about to import bland designs that could be from anywhere. Worse, the schemes will actively damage the Conservation Area by looming over Glebe Court and damaging the historic setting of The Canons. The architects cannot even get the name right of the striking Pagoda tree which lies at the heart of their own designs for The Canons nursery.

We are asking Merton Council to take stock and learn the lessons from Merantun’s first two years.

Work on the planning applications should be paused and the schemes reworked with strong community engagement and a real sense of place. Merantun’s role should be reimagined so it not only makes money but also raises the bar on design and community engagement. The success of Merantun should be judged as much by the impact on other developers as it is on the quality of its own plans. It should be resourced so there is no net reduction on the capacity of the Future Merton team.

Merantun can be a force for good, providing both inspiration for what new development can achieve and respect for what already exists. It’s not too late to create both a company and developments we can all be proud of and given the quality of other development in the pipeline this leadership can’t come soon enough.

You can read our full Merantun submission here.