Local Plan scrutiny begins

Merton Council’s new planning blueprint is about to be subject to independent examination by Government appointed inspectors.

This will review a range of topics in a series of hearing at the Civic Centre. The hearings begin on 14 June and are expected to run well into the autumn. They will be open to the public to attend as observers.

We’ve written before about how important the Local Plan is for Mitcham.

The Inspectors have already highlighted serious issues noting “A number of the representations made also highlight drafting errors such as incorrect policy numbers, incomplete sentences, and missing text along with potential factual errors. These matters are exacerbated by a lack of integration in the Plan’s presentation and a lack of clarity as to how the chapters relate to one another. Overall, the Plan therefore reads in a somewhat fragmented and disjointed manner and the strategy is therefore challenging to understand and follow.” We are pleased that these issues are finally getting the attention they deserve.

Topics to be covered at the hearings include the overall vision, tall buildings, green space and the development of sites including Benedict Wharf, Mitcham Gasworks, Wilson Hospital, and Merton Council’s own plans for The Canons nursery and Raleigh Gardens car park. It is also an opportunity to restate the case for Mitcham to be recognised as a village.

We’ve asked to speak on five key issues and you can read our latest submissions below.

Local elections 2022 – our Cricket Green questions for candidates

We will have three new ward councillors for Cricket Green following the Local Elections on 5th May. All three incumbents are stepping down, two after a single four year term.

As the local civic society we have asked 10 questions about key local issues of all 11 candidates from the five political parties standing in Cricket Green ward. The questions cover issues including the future of the Wilson, the impact of high rise tower blocks and how Cricket Green can best respond to the climate and ecological emergencies. Candidates have also been asked about how they will secure the future of cricket on the green and protect the Conservation Area. We have also asked how they will support the character of Mitcham Village and ensure swift action on fly tips. Candidates have also shared their favourite places in Cricket Green.

Every political party has responded. We thank them for engaging. Their answers are revealing. As a local charity it is not for us to take sides in the election. The responses speak for themselves and we hope you find them useful. We look forward to working with the successful candidates when they become our ward councillors after the election.

Read the responses to our Cricket Green questions – Local election 2022 – party responses

Car wash redevelopment should be fronted by shops not bin sheds

New plans for nine homes on the car wash site at 370 – 374 London Road are now with Merton Council to decide.

We earmarked the site to be allocated for building in the Local Plan and support its use for a combination of new homes and an extension of the local shopping parade.

Merton Council agreed with our approach.

The developers have other ideas and propose a line of bin sheds and cycle stores along London Road instead of shops and local services.

We’ve objected to this, and also objected to the loss of adjacent trees without planned replacements and the proposal for a shallow green roof which falls well short of official standards.

There are no affordable homes in this proposal, and the flats will generate an extra 5 or 6 cars with no parking to be provided.

It is planned to collect bins and make deliveries from London Road which is sure to create congestion and conflict with buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

The building design is better that earlier plans for 19 flats but lacks detail and key documents which are required to be provided are still missing.

We have asked Merton Council to reject the plans and invited the developers to come back with new proposals once they have involved local people.

Read our submission on the latest plans for the car wash site 370-374 London Road – Jan 22

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

Six nominations for addition to Merton’s Local List

We’ve started the New Year with a clutch of suggested additions to Merton’s Local List.

The Local List identifies buildings and structures of local historic value which don’t quite make it for national listing but are important to the story and heritage of our neighbourhood.

Being included on the Local List offers some additional protection from being lost or demolished when planning decisions are made.

This year we have deliberately worked on a selection of buildings and structures which do not have immediate visual appeal but they are of significant local historic value:

  • Mitcham Police Station – this was agreed to be added during the last review once Merton Council officers provided councillors with an up to date photograph.
  • WWII anti-tank blocks – these are located by Tramway Path near the Willow Lane railway bridges and provide a rare example of a WWII structure in the area.
  • Mitcham’s last wall mounted postbox – this can be found on Spencer Road at the edge of Mitcham Common.
  • Buildings on Willow Lane Industrial Estate – this important industrial area is often overlooked despite its significant history and contribution of many firms to developments in engineering and construction techniques. We have proposed the former HQs of Scaffolding Great Britain (in Cathite House) which pioneered modular construction methods and Morfax which contributed to the development of Concorde, the Exocet missile, simulators for the Chieftain tank and the Ministry of Defence’s radar systems. The Morfax Building included the largest clean room in Europe at the time.
  • Holborn Union Workhouse Wall – this is the last remaining structure from the large workhouse that occupied land between Eagle House and Mitcham’s village centre and it also forms the boundary between Lavender Fields and Figges Marsh wards by Asda and Chak 89.

The Local List is meant to be reviewed every year so do let us know if you have any other suggestions we can look into for the future.

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