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.

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

Community on the Green 2019 thank you for coming to our 50th birthday party!

Thank you to everyone who came along and made our 50th birthday party such fun!

The Deputy Mayor of Merton cut our birthday cake and made a lovely speech.

We enjoyed a cask of Wandle Ale donated by Sambrook’s Brewery –  Thank you to them!

We had a special walk celebrating some of the 50 things people have helped us identify that make the Conservation Area special to us. We’re tweeting these throughout the year – @MitchamCrktGrn #CricketGreenat50

There was cricket on the green courtesy of Mitcham Cricket Club’s ladies team.

We remembered with pride that we are Englands Fourth Favourite Conservation Area.

And best of all – lots of local people came to enjoy the sunshine, the cake, the ale, and the company.

sdr

Mitcham Heritage Day – Saturday 14th September 2019

10.00am to 4.30pm Saturday 14 September 2019

Enjoy a day of experiences, visits, tours, exhibitions, and more at Mitcham Heritage Day, and discover just some of the great heritage our area has to offer.

Everything is free.

There are refreshments at many venues.

Below are just some of the things you can do. Full details are on the downloadable programme including the location of each venue and the timing of guided walks and other events.

  • Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Mitcham Cricket Green Conservations Area with the Golden Jubilee Guided Walk starting at 2.00 on the Cricket Green.
  • Mary Tate Cottages – new this year – the Mayor of Merton will unveil a new garden ornament to commemorate the 190th anniversary of the cottages.
  • Mitcham Golf Club – new this year – Exhibition about the history of the club, golfers dressed in historic and modern clothing, display of hickory clubs, access to locker rooms normally only open to members.
  • Melanie’s Walk – new this year – 3-4 miles guided walk around the green spaces of Mitcham, to include a visit to Mitcham Cricket Club and the Canons.
  • Mitcham Parish Church – bell chamber open (up a narrow spiral staircase), guided tours of churchyard, exhibition – From Green to Green an illustrated guide to sites of interest near Cricket Green and Fair Green, Mitcham, exhibition Memories of Mitcham a display combining images from the Merton Memories collection and extracts from the reminiscences of local people.
  • Mitcham Cricket Club – pavilion open for free access. Cricket match celebrating the Centenary of the Mitcham CC Match against the Australian Imperial Forces Touring Team, guided boundary walk covering cricketing history of the Green.
  • Mitcham Bowling Club – pavilion open, try your hand at bowling, support the club in a match in the afternoon.
  • Wandle Industrial Museum – waiving its entry fee. Special exhibition for Mitcham Heritage Day – Mitcham 25 linked with the 25th anniversary of Merton Heritage Service the display will highlight 25 aspects of Mitcham history.
  • The Former Three Kings Pub – three separate exhibitions. History of the building when was a pub. Mitcham History Notes exhibition of History Nuggets prepared for Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage. Old Mitchamians of Mitcham County Grammar school for boys exhibition with Old Boys present to talk about life in the school.
  • Cricket Green School – open for visitors to view the only remaining part of the Hall Place on which the school is built – its 14th Century arch.
  • Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church – open for visits plus timed guided tours of the church including a visit to the Grotto in the parish garden.
  • Canons House & Dovecote – learn about the Lottery funding which will restore the house and landscape over the next three years. Canons in View: an exhibition of photography and art by local primary children interpreting the area through art. Craft demonstrations and workshops throughout the day. Please note The Canons House will not be open.
  • Mitcham Methodist Church – open for visits plus a performance by the church choir.

Evening concert at Mitcham Parish Church – Wessex Vocal Consort celebrates “Hardy and Heritage” in English Choral Music – 7.00pm. Tickets £10.00 from the Parish Church, or 020 8646 0666. Full details and poster here.

Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage would like to thank all the volunteer participants for making this year’s Mitcham Heritage Day such a packed, vibrant and varied event.

For all the details Download the programme

Mitcham Heritage Day is part of Heritage Open Days and is an opening day event for this year’s Wandle Fortnight.

 

 

Want more? Download our self-guided audio tour and take a tour at your leisure

Special thanks to

  • Sarah Gould, Merton Council Heritage & Local Studies, for providing special exhibitions.
  • Mitcham Golf Club for financial support
  • M3 for financial support
  • Mitcham Parish Church for financial support
  • The Canons Parks for People project for financial support

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.