Category Archives: Submissions

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.

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

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.

More tarmacking of Three Kings Piece

Merton Council is consulting on its priorities for transport investment.

These include welcome objectives to get more people active, reduce air pollution and to promote healthier lifestyles” and there is much to welcome.

Buried in the detail, however, are plans for further tarmacking of our special network of Town Greens. 

This follows the controversy in 2017 when we believe Merton Council acted unlawfully in tarmacking stretches of both Three Kings Piece and Cranmer Green for new bus stops without authorisation. 

The latest plans would tarmac the whole length of Three Kings Piece along Commonside West for a “shared use path”

We recognise the need for improve cycling access but do not believe it is necessary for this to be at the expense of our most protected landscapes.  An alternative is to reconfigure the space used by the existing road and pavement to free up room for other users.

We have proposed a bundle of other ways in which Merton Council’s investment could reduce air pollution, provide better pedestrian links and address the problems caused by the school run. 

Our full response is here.

Open spaces matter – our response to Merton Council Open Space Study

Merton’s green spaces matter.

In every poll of why people love where they live they come out top and Cricket Green has more green spaces than anywhere else in Merton.

So we have welcomed a new “open spaces study” by Merton Council which provides an opportunity to recognise their importance and protect and manage them better in the future.

Our green spaces certainly need better recognition.

The evidence is growing of a decline in management standards as a result of Merton Council’s contracting out to idverde. Development pressures are everywhere and Merton’s Local Plan is up for review.

We have highlighted some glaring gaps in the open space database, including important areas of registered Town Green.

Important areas of nature conservation interest are also missing and we have objected to open spaces like Three Kings Piece being classified as “outdoor sports facilities”. They are used for football matches for a tiny percentage of the time and are so much more important than that.

We’re also surprised at the omission of the new green space created around Fair Green as a result of the recent “Rediscover Mitcham” investment. Merton Council has promised that this will be registered as additional Town Green but has left it off the map.

Our submission also calls on Merton Council and Mitcham Common Conservators to prepare management plans for each of the open spaces.

Most green spaces don’t have a management plan and those for Cranmer Green ran out in 2006 and Mitcham Common in 2012.

Among other initiatives we’re also pressing for better protection for the local ponds, stronger commitments to keeping trees and shrubs well watered in the summer and a plan to replace trees which will eventually die off.

Read our submission –  open spaces study – jan 19

See – Merton Council’s open space map

Planning for the future – Merton’s Local Plan

Cricket Green is going to change a lot in the next 20 years.

The community is growing and getting younger. New public transport routes are planned. Over a thousand new homes could be built.

The Wilson is set to be redeveloped to provide new health and community services. The green spaces around The Canons will see investment and a new cafe.

The Burn Bullock and White Hart could reopen and the old fire station be given a new use.

All of this could improve our neighbourhood but it could also do harm. The Conservation Area and its environs are sensitive and easily damaged. More shops could close and green spaces and gardens could be lost.

The local workshops and yards could be built over and rising traffic could cause more pollution and make it even harder to cross the roads.

Merton’s new Local Plan will have a major influence on how Cricket Green changes. It is the keynote document containing all the policies that decide where and what kind of development is permitted and how well it should be designed.

The Local Plan is under review and we have set out our stall for how it should guide Cricket Green’s future.

We’re disappointed that too many of the policies are so vague they won’t help ensure the high quality of new building the area deserves. We’ve asked for the policies governing development sites, such as Benedict Wharf, The Wilson and The Birches to be strengthened. We’ve also identified the shopping parades in Church Road, London Road and Bramcote Parade for protection.

We are looking for more cultural facilities and we want Merton Council to identify and protect local community assets such as the Wandle Industrial Museum.

We’ve asked for extra protection for the green space behind Mary Tate’s almshouses and in Glebe Court. We want investment in the streets and pavements to make London Road and Jubilee Corner more pleasant and to close King George VI Avenue to prevent car parking at the heart of Cranmer Green.

We want more trees to be planted and local ponds protected. We’ve welcomed the Local Plan’s expectation that Mitcham cricket pavilion will become community run.

The Local Plan also needs to set the standard for good design and prevent Cricket Green becoming an area dominated by blocks of flats. We favour new homes based on streets and houses.

It is important that the Local Plan sets an expectation that local people will be involved in shaping development ideas well before they get to the stage of a planning application. It also needs to be backed by a stronger commitment from Merton Council to enforce planning laws when people develop without permission.

The Local Plan is expected to go to a public hearing later this year and come into force in 2020.

You can read our full submission – Merton local plan consultation Jan 2019

The Local Plan pages at Merton Council web site