Queen’s Head development plans

 

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The Queen’s Head public house has served Cricket Green for nearly a century and the site has been a place of refreshment since at least the mid 19th century. Prominently located opposite the historic Green and on the corner of Bramcote Avenue the building has been officially recognised as making a “positive contribution” to the Conservation Area. The pub closed in 2016 and was boarded up and sold on by Shepherd Neame.

We were pleased to be contacted at an early stage by the new owners to discuss their development plans. While some of our feedback has been taken on board we have registered an objection to the planning application that has now been submitted to Merton Council. This will involve conversion of the existing pub and construction of two new flanking buildings to create eight flats. The design is neither sympathetic enough to the existing building nor bold enough to add to the street scene. The overpowering new block of flats along Bramcote Avenue will dramatically effect the open sweep as it enters Cricket Green and damage the Conservation Area. We have offered to continue to work with the developers to improve the plans.

Read our comments Queens Head pub

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Protecting Mitcham’s Town Greens

Mitcham is defined as much by its green spaces as its buildings.  Once linked to the vastness of Mitcham Common they remain central to Mitcham’s story and to its future.   Mitcham’s Greens were originally put in the hands of the Mitcham Common Conservators in 1891.  Responsibility was transferred to the local authority in 1923 and they are now managed by Merton Council.  Five were registered as town greens in 1967 – Figges Marsh, Fair Green, Three Kings Piece, Cranmer Green and Cricket Green – and given high levels of protection.  This recognition provides a reassuring certainty in an area experiencing rapid development and change.

Or so it seemed.

In June 2016 Mitcham saw the open grassland and green road verges of Three Kings Piece and Cranmer Green replaced by tarmac, kerbs, bus stops and road crossings (see photos).  This happened without warning and there was no consultation.  Land which had survived undeveloped for hundreds of years was lost.  The special character of an important area of the town greens was destroyed.

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The damage was the talking point of our stand at the Mitcham Carnival and questions were asked as to whether Mitcham’s Greens were safe after all.

We moved quickly to raise concerns with Merton Council and seek an explanation.  The response was emphatic – Merton Council believes it has the power to tarmac the Greens and does not need to consult.  Further, Merton Council believes the protections afforded town and village greens do not apply to Mitcham’s greens and its duty to make bus stops accessible overrides other concerns.

We turned to the Open Spaces Society for advice – as the UK’s oldest conservation body it is a national source of expertise on common land and town and village greens.  With its help we have explored the complex legal position and arrived at very different conclusions to Merton Council.

three-kings-piece-bus-stop-works-june-16Over 10 years ago the House of Lords ruled that laws protecting greens applied to all greens, new and old.  This set a precedent and means Mitcham’s greens are protected in the same way as other greens.  As a result, any encroachment or development requires consent from the Secretary of State.  The fact that Merton Council has the power to undertake the works affecting Mitcham’s Greens does not override the need for it to seek this consent.  Nor does the requirement to take steps to make bus stops accessible override these protections.

We believe Merton Council has overstepped the mark.  It has damaged the Mitcham Greens without authorisation.  We are asking Merton Council to come clean and either seek permission from Central Government or undo the works and return both Cranmer Green and Three Kings Piece to their former condition.  And most important of all we are asking Merton Council to be clear about the procedures protecting Mitcham’s Greens so we can all avoid a repeat and be secure in their future.

Read our report

Open Spaces Society press release

 

Cricketers development gets go ahead – the silver lining

The fierce debate over the future of The Cricketers looks like it is drawing to a close.

The latest proposals to demolish the former pub next to the Vestry Hall and replace it with 11 flats were rejected by Merton’s Planning Committee following our objections and the views of the Design Review Panel.

The developers – Chatsworth Land – appealed and an Inspector has recently decided in their favour. The developers are now free to proceed with the scheme subject to some relatively minor conditions.

While the outcome is disappointing, this is a story which shows the value of standing up for the Conservation Area.

The development now granted permission is the latest in a long line and the least worst of all those put forward.

We also congratulate Merton’s councillors on the Planning Committee who held out against many of the previous proposals against the recommendations of their officers. Three previous appeals against Planning Committee decisions to refuse permission have been won thanks to councilors standing up for Mitcham against officers’ advice.

The final scheme is relatively modest by comparison to those which have come before. You can see some of the earlier proposals in the selection below – with the approved development in the bottom right.

The future of The Cricketers has been something of a litmus test for the Conservation Area. Now attention turns to the future of the Burn Bullock and Mitcham Cricket Pavilion where the very tradition of cricket being played on the green for over 330 years is at stake.

Read the appeal decision

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New “neighbourhood fund” priorities for Cricket Green

Merton Council has a new source of funding to spend on local priorities – the Community Infrastructure Levy.

This is paid by developers to cover the wider impact of their developments on the areas in which they build. A share of this goes to local priorities and we have set out ours in response to Merton Council’s consultation. 

Cricket Green Conservation Area already has spending priorities set out in the excellent Management Plan produced a few years ago. 

Our green spaces and trees need more care and we need to reduce clutter from signs and bollards.  We are also asking for the old fire station to be put to community use.  We would like the Council to do more to tackle the traffic problems around Lower Green West and improve Hallowfield Way so it provides the gateway that the Conservation Area deserves.  The shopping parade along London Road also needs urgent attention. 

Read our priorities for spending the neighbourhood fund 

Details matter

The details of new development matter to our Conservation Area as much as the construction of new blocks of flats.

Two current proposals illustrate the point.

Locally listed Caxton House is proposing a roof extension and to have a steeper roof pitch than its neighbours. 21 Cricket Green is proposing the area’s first mansard roof, including 13 dormers. Have a look at the images below to see what is being proposed.

Both are located next to listed buildings (the old school house and the Methodist Church) and both affect important views (on entering from Church Road and across the cricket ground).

We have looked at them in light of their prominent locations and the impact they have on the special qualities of the Conservation Area. This has led us to object on the grounds that the conflict with local planning policies and damage the appearance of this special part of Mitcham.

Read our comments:

21 Cricket Green mansard roof

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Caxton House ridgeline and roof extension

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Air pollution at Cricket Green

The impact of air pollution is rising up rapidly up the agenda and Cricket Green is not immune.

With support from Friends of the Earth we have been conducting some air quality trials in the area and the results are concerning.

We chose three locations at which to measure air quality – the busy road junction by the White Hart at Jubilee Corner; where Church Road reaches Lower Green and near the old milestone by Elm Lodge.

We set out ‘diffusion tubes’ for 20 days to measure pollution levels for nitrogen dioxide.

High levels of nitrogen dioxide are known to inflame the lining of the lung and reduce immunity to lung infections such as bronchitis. The tubes were sent off to a laboratory for analysis and gave the following results:

By White Hart 67.0µg/m3
Church Road/Lower Green West 27.1µg/m3
By Elm Lodge 41.8µg/m3

Air pollution is measured in µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre)

For the period of our trials (in August 2016) two of the sites exceeded the European legal mean annual limit for nitrogen dioxide at 40µg/m3

We cannot yet say that air pollution in Cricket Green is breaking legal limits as we ran the trials for too short a period of time. They are a snapshot and air pollution varies throughout the year as a result of the seasons, weather patterns, traffic levels and other events.

What we can say is that it isn’t looking good. While more results are needed, we think it is time to start taking action to avoid even more problems in the future. The solutions aren’t easy – traffic levels in the area are very high – but with effort they can found and as a start we think there’s merit in extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) already planned for central London to cover a much larger area.

We are keen to extend this study further, and we are supporting Mitcham Society in its own efforts to monitor pollution levels at Mitcham Fair Green. Let us know if you would like to get involved.