Category Archives: Planning Applications

SUEZ legacy for Benedict Wharf found wanting

The scale of SUEZ’s redevelopment plans for Benedict Wharf has emerged in an outline planning application for 600 homes that will transform the site.

SUEZ has put great store in its commitment to leave the site with a positive legacy when it moves its waste operations to a yet-to-be-permitted site in Beddington Lane.

In reality another developer will buy the land from SUEZ once it has secured outline planning permission and what gets built may not live up to the standards SUEZ espouses.

We are working hard to lock in as many commitments as possible to ensure the legacy is a positive one.

The Benedict Wharf development is the largest proposal in the area for a generation. We have warmly welcomed the change of use from industrial to residential development and support Merton Council’s emerging Local Plan which makes new provision to increase the capacity of other industrial sites in the borough.

We are asking the Mayor of London to back this change of use for a site currently allocated as Strategic Industrial Land.

It makes sense to local people; removes lorries, odours and disruption from managing waste in a residential area, and Merton Councils plans mean there is no overall loss of the industrial land available.

We have worked hard to secure effective community engagement in the development of the scheme.

Despite our efforts resulting in some additional events we have in the end been left to respond to what SUEZ is proposing rather than collaborate over what should be developed.

The approach might best be summarised as a “Goldilocks’ consultation” over false choices – with feedback usually invited on three options where the first is stated as not being viable or compliant with externally driven housing targets and the third is presented as major overdevelopment of the site.

Unsurprisingly, the outline planning application has emerged from the second option.

SUEZ has even refused point blank to share details of a scheme based more around houses and streets than blocks and flats despite speaking about it at a Community Liaison Group meeting.

Our hopes for the development are that it will become a natural extension of Mitcham and be of a quality that leads to public demands for the new neighbourhood to be included in the Conservation Area within a decade.

This would be a fitting legacy of the kind SUEZ says that it wants.

Unfortunately this quality is not achieved by the outline application.

It largely comprises pavilion and other blocks of flats of moderate design quality which are excessively high, lack local character and will cause significant visual intrusion.

The plans are further undermined by official assessments of the impact of eight storey blocks on London Road Playing Fields that fly in the face of reality.

As a photo-montage provided as part of the planning application shows, it is not credible to associate the self-evident visual impact of the scheme with a written assessment that the scheme will have a “moderate & beneficial impact” and “not appear overly dominant”. It won’t and it will.

The application includes other photo montages from other viewpoints, many of which show the excessively tall blocks as damaging and intrusive (See below).

We have identified opportunities to create new pedestrian and cycling routes through the site linking Mitcham to Ravensbury Park, the Wandle, Morden Hall Park and Morden (including through the Phipps Bridge green spaces) and to provide direct access to London Road through Baron and Fenning Courts.

We welcome their inclusion in the proposals but there is no confidence in their delivery.

We are also asking for a rethink of plans to put a cycle route down the residential stretch of Church Path and build new shops alongside existing homes. This stretch of Church Path is much loved for the distinct character of low rise terraced houses fronting almost directly onto the road. Cycling infrastructure, delivery vans and the clutter of signage and street markings can never be sensitive enough not to damage this character. We are asking instead for the cycle route and new shops to help transform the sea of tarmac that is currently Hallowfield Way which the development should repurpose as a much narrower, residential street.

The plans are very weak on the investment in local green spaces and community facilities that will be needed.

The success of the scheme depends on the new residents being able to enjoy London Road Playing Fields and community resources such as Mitcham Parish Centre and they need to benefit from both direct investment and an endowment for their future. Surrounding green spaces need management plans prepared to benefit both people and wildlife and the scheme needs to improve public transport, including the 200 bus.

Everyone with an interest in the scheme is encouraged to feed in comments. You can do this by letter, email or online and access the application (reference number 19/P2383) here.

Read our full representation on this planning applicaiton – Benedict Wharf – outline application – July 19

The lessons from Worsfold House

Merton Council is a significant landowner in Cricket Green as well as being the local planning authority.

Its Cabinet will make a key decision tonight (July 15th 2019) on one of the Council’s most important sites – Worsfold House.

This is located alongside Church Path and next to Cricket Green School. It was formerly used by Merton Council as a satellite office and is now rented out to a range of local organisations, including important voluntary groups such as Merton Centre for Independent Living.

Out of the blue we have learned Worsfold House is to be sold to Clarion Housing to develop 60 homes.

These will be used to house residents of Eastfields Estate who have to leave as a result of the major regeneration plans.

The Eastfields plans have been in preparation for several years and this is the first time Worsfold House has been identified as being critical to their success. The report being considered by the Cabinet gives every impression that Worsfold House’s role in delivering these plans has been developed post hoc. It also fails to give any consideration to Worsfold House’s strategic importance to Cricket Green.

We agree this is a site suitable for new homes and included it in our representations on Merton’s new Local Plan.

It has the potential to open up a new route between Church Road and London Road Playing Fields and contribute to the wider changes now underway with the redevelopment of nearby Benedict Wharf. These proposals all go with the grain of what Merton Council supports through its planning policies but none of them feature in the decision making over the future of its own land.

Merton Council policies also look for good design and it says it encourages community engagement.

So often we face proposals from private sector developers which are poorly designed and already finalised as planning applications. Unsurprisingly this often means that people object to the plans.

With its own land Merton Council has the opportunity to raise the standard and require the new owners – in this case Clarion Homes – to collaborate with local people from the very beginning and meet demanding design standards.

We welcome the fact that Merton Council officers have told us they will “encourage Clarion to engage with the local community in advance of any planning application coming forward for the site” and Cabinet Member, Martin Whelton has told us “we would want Clarion to undertake full consultation with local residents as plans are progressed and it’s something we would emphasise as part of the land transfer” but this feels too weak, too little and too late.

What Merton Council “encourage” and “would want” is not what will necessarily happen. As landowners the Council can insist on it.

We are also asking Merton Council to exercise a stronger duty of care to all of the important local organisations who will lose their offices at Worsfold House.

They need to be helped to find accommodation of at least the size and standard they are leaving and end up in a better position to carry on the important work they do for Merton’s communities.

The future of Worsfold House is important for Cricket Green.

We will continue to do what we can to secure the best use of the site and the highest standard of development. The lessons of Worsfold House go wider than Cricket Green. They speak to the potential of Merton Council to take a much bigger stake in the future of our neighbourhoods as landowner as well as local planning authority.

Eyes are now turning to how its new development company, Merantun, will design and involve local people in the future development for homes of more Merton Council land – the former Canons nursery and the car parks at Raleigh Park Gardens and Elm Nursery.

Mitcham Garden Village – vehicle barrier

Mitcham Garden Village is one of the jewels of the Cricket Green Conservation Area.

It is a living legacy of Sir Isaac Wilson’s local philanthropy and an architectural gem.

We’re greatly concerned, therefore, by proposals for a intrusive road barrier across the key view into the estate from Cranmer Road.

This view is specially recognised in Merton Council’s appraisal of the Conservation Area and the design of

the barrier shows no respect for the sensitivity of the site.

We’re asking for any changes to Mitcham Garden Village to be informed by a management plan to ensure they are well considered and don’t harm what makes it special.

Read our comments on the barrier application.Mitcham Garden Village barrier – June 19

Massive redevelopment of Benedict Wharf imminent

Plans for the largest development in Cricket Green for a generation are being finalised over Easter.

SUEZ’s plans to move its recycling operations to a site near the Beddington incinerator are expected to result in an outline application being submitted for new housing on Benedict Wharf within the next few weeks.

Around 600 homes are planned, creating an entire new neighbourhood for Mitcham.

We are pressing SUEZ for a development which feels like a natural extension of Mitcham rather than a bolt on area of blocks and flats.

Regrettably, the latest plans include large blocks of flats reaching eight storeys.

We have also asked for a standard of design that will lead to demands to include the new neighbourhood in Cricket Green Conservation Area within ten years.

The development creates a real opportunity to invest in London Road Playing Fields and support local community facilities, including Mitcham Parish Centre. We are also looking for a new route from London Road through the site, across Phipps Bridge and into Morden Hall Park.

The plans should also sort out the Hallowfield Way eyesore and, using land owned by Merton Council, convert this into a residential street with a welcoming entrance to the Conservation Area next to Mitcham Parish Church.

As an outline application we know that SUEZ will not be the developers. If successful we can expect a housebuilder to submit detailed plans and so it will be important that the SUEZ scheme sets standards that cannot be reduced at a later date.

Once the application is submitted all eyes will turn towards Merton Council as both planning authority and owner of much of the adjacent land.

You can see our submission to SUEZ here.

White Hart development plans fall short

The Grade II listed White Hart is one of the most important buildings in Cricket Green.

Prominently located by the historic cricket ground it was originally a coaching inn on the main route from London to Brighton.

The pub has been closed for some time and we have been supportive of some sensitive development to allow for its restoration.

It is all the more disappointing that the plans that have come forward do not do justice to the site and would damage the key views from Cricket Green.

We objected to the large block of flats put forward for the White Hart’s car park last year and they have returned in an amended form with all of the same problems and fewer benefits.

The sensitive demolition of a new extension to the back of the White Hart has been dropped but the flats will still loom over the historic building and may also be visible from Lower Green West.

We have invited the developers to meet and talk about an alternative approach which will provide homes and restore the White Hart so it can rediscover its role as an important asset for the local community.

You can see our latest representations here.

White Hart restoration plans blighted by intrusive flats

The Grade II listed White Hart is one of the most important buildings in Merton and stands prominently at the heart of Cricket Green Conservation Area.

It includes a large area of land to the rear which is the focus of plans for a new block of flats.

We have welcome the proposals to restore and re-open the White Hart and demolish the modern extension to its rear.

Unfortunately the new building proposed as part of the development is less sympathetic.

The architects drawing clearly show it will be visible above the roofline of the White Hart in the key approach along Cricket Green to the south.

Worryingly, there is no information provided on the impact on Lower Green West.

The design of the new flats also doesn’t do justice the the location and the proposed beer garden will spend most of its time in shade. An opportunity has been missed to service the White Hart from the rear and avoid delivery lorries adding to the congestion and road safety problems at Jubilee Corner.

As a consequence we have objected to the plans (see here) and invited the developers to collaborate on an alternative. We would welcome well designed residential development which funds restoration of the White Hart and avoids damage to the Conservation Area.

Read our comments