Tag Archives: Benedict Wharf

Benedict Wharf – turning the tide

Merton Council has been clear that planning decisions carry on through Covid-19 and so, therefore, must we.

Mitcham faces a dozen simultaneous development proposals for new blocks of flats which risk changing its character for ever.  The largest of these – for Benedict Wharf – has just got larger. A whole lot larger.

SUEZ has revised its plans to increase the number of homes by over 40% to 850 and increase the height of the tower blocks to up to 10 storeys. The proposed development is far and away the largest seen in Mitcham for a generation.

And let’s not be fooled into thinking this will do anything to house those most in housing need. At best we will see some flats with a small discount on market rents for households earning up to £90,000 per year.  The average salary in Mitcham is nearer £25,000.

In this blog we explore the downsides of the current plans and why they should be rejected. But we also point towards the opportunity that Benedict Wharf can provide to open up a new future for this part of Mitcham – one which can ultimately provide even more homes, target them to match more of those in true housing need and provide green space and a well designed network of streets and houses that is recognisably Mitcham.

There are countless reasons why SUEZ’s plans are a bad way to go.

As SUEZ announced its move to a new Beddington Lane site it promised to create a legacy to be proud of. At first SUEZ invited the community in to debate the options and design the future.  We even shared a submission to Merton’s Local Plan.

And then SUEZ turned its back, closed its ears and listened only to those demanding extra height and density.

SUEZ has presented misleading information and provided false assessments of the visual impact of 10 storey blocks on the surrounding area. The plans give every impression of being designed to meet excessive housing numbers demanded by the Mayor of London as a quid pro quo for allowing the land to be repurposed from industrial to residential use.

They offer the wrong future for Mitcham.

Despite the London Plan requiring such development to be “design-led” and the Government amending the London Plan to say that “gentle densification should be actively encouraged by Boroughs in low- and mid-density locations to achieve a change in densities in the most appropriate way” we are faced with what has been labelled “Suezgrad” – an alien, excessively high and placeless development that harms the local area and feels like anything but a natural extension to Mitcham.

We have presented alternative proposals for mixed-use gentle density and these have been ignored.

The development at Benedict Wharf should respect the character of Mitcham and be led by an urban design vision that emphasises the importance of streets and houses. It should be of a height that avoids visual intrusion, shadowing and encroachment on London Road Playing Fields and negative impacts on views from the two adjacent Conservation Areas. It should rule out any possibility of being visible from either Morden Hall Park or Mitcham’s historic cricket ground. The quality of the scheme should be such that there is public pressure to include the whole site within a Conservation Area within 10 years.

Achieving this would mark a fitting transformation of Benedict Wharf with its long history of “bad neighbour” uses and provide the positive legacy which SUEZ states it wants to leave for the site.

The scheme has deteriorated so far that questions are now being raised as to whether the site might not be better in industrial use after all.

SUEZ has told us it has had offers to buy the land and use it for a distribution warehouse that are worth more financially than its use for homes. With careful controls over lorry movements there is an alternative future here which we believe is best explored through Merton’s Local Plan review.

There is a bigger prize, however, that we are asking Merton Council and the Mayor of London to recognise.

Benedict Wharf lies adjacent to the extensive Phipps Bridge estate to the north (see image).

This provides social housing through Clarion Homes. Parts of Phipps Bridge are in urgent need of renewal. When combined with the opportunity at Benedict Wharf there is potential to create a significant new Mitcham neighbourhood. By renewing Phipps Bridge this can provide a more diverse range of housing that better meets housing need. It would also reduce the likelihood of Benedict Wharf becoming a dormitory neighbourhood. Merton Council is also a landowner in the area, including development sites along Hallowfield Way.

This opportunity could provide more homes in total by making better use of under-used open land on Phipps Bridge and by taking a design-led approach, incorporating the concept of gentle density, integrating significant open spaces, and providing a streets based neighbourhood it would fit in with the local character.

An integrated approach to both Phipps Bridge and Benedict Wharf sites will deliver more homes that better meet local housing needs than can be provided by treating the sites separately. It will also meet the aims of the London Plan better than imposing unsuitably dense and tall development on Benedict Wharf.

The decision by Transport for London to route a new tram line running between the sites is a further stimulus for a re-think which takes advantage of this strategic opportunity.

This decision was made after the Mayor’s intervention on the earlier Benedict Wharf scheme which led SUEZ to increase the size of the development planned. The London Plan has also been revised by the Government since this intervention was made. These two changes alone trigger a need for the Mayor to rethink the approach. We ask him now also to recognise the strategic opportunity of a more integrated approach which supports his ambitions for estate renewal.

This is not the time to rush to a hasty decision on Benedict Wharf. It is a time to pause and see the bigger picture.

The outline planning application for Benedict Wharf has come forward ahead of the Local Plan review and it is this which should determine the future of the site and its relationship with Phipps Bridge. The Local Plan can show the way to creating a new Mitcham neighbourhood which renews Phipps Bridge, repurposes Benedict Wharf, delivers more homes overall and ensures they better meet Mitcham’s needs.

We ask Merton Council and the Mayor of London to consider the plans as they stand today premature and address these alternatives. We ask Clarion Homes to join the endeavour and promote the opportunities for estate renewal through the Local Plan review. This can be supported by a masterplan and design brief for the wider area.

Working together we can turn the tide.  We stand ready to contribute.

Read our full submission on the plans for Benedict Wharf Benedict Wharf – revised draft outline application – Mar 20

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.

The future of Benedict Wharf

The long awaited plans for the future of Benedict Wharf have started to emerge.

This is the largest brownfield site in Mitcham and it will become available for development once SUEZ moves its waste facility to a new site on Beddington Lane.

We have previously welcomed the move and the plans to re-use the site for housing. Something in the order of 500-800 homes are planned.

The site has huge potential, including to strengthen links between Mitcham and Morden. It is a little known fact that Mitcham Parish Church is closer to Morden Hall Park than Merton Civic Centre but Benedict Wharf is a major psychological and physical barrier.

The plans revealed by SUEZ at a recent public exhibition are a step in the right direction but miss out on some of the key opportunities for improving access and lack the detail required for us to be confident of the proposals.

There are widespread concerns that the site might be developed for 10 storey blocks of flats looming over the area – including over London Road Playing Fields.

We have asked SUEZ to rethink and provide homes based on houses and streets. We are also keen to see a mix of developers involved, including the potential for custom-build housing and community land trusts.

It is disappointing that SUEZ is limiting community engagement to just one more public exhibition in 2019 and we have asked it to rethink its approach and not rush to a planning application in the Spring.

Read our submission on the December 2018 public consultation

View the information boards shown at the December 2018 public consultation

Let us know what you think – info@mitchamcricketgreen.org.uk

La Sporta demolition plan

The La Sporta building on Church Road has always been something of a conundrum.

After years of lying empty and falling into neglect it has struggled to find a purpose. There is a covenant preventing housing being built on the site although this didn’t prevent early discussions with Merton Council some years ago. The Council has since admitted it has lost the note of the advice it provided.

Now it is being slated for demolition.

The building itself provokes mixed views. The important of its location is, however, without doubt. At a key gateway to the Conservation Area it is in the setting of the nationally listed Mitcham Parish Church and also the old Vicarage. It can also play a part in the wider redevelopment being planned for the Benedict Wharf site when Suez moves out. This should rid us of the oversize Hallowfield Way and provide new homes and community facilities.

We are keen to uphold Merton’s planning policy protecting community uses and so have asked that the La Sporta building isn’t demolished before we know what might follow.

Read our comments here

Read what we said about Benedict Wharf

From waste to place – the opportunity at Benedict Wharf

In the jargon of town and country planners the noisy and smelly waste operation at Benedict Wharf is known as “bad neighbour” development.

It has become such a bad neighbour that even its owner – SUEZ – recognises there is a problem. It has announced that the site will close in around two years. SUEZ is moving its operation to an industrial estate in Sutton where it can operate around the clock without disturbing the neighbours.

Community action over many years has helped bring this about and soon the lorries, smells and noise will be a thing of the past.

In a statement SUEZ has said it wants a good legacy for Benedict Wharf and intends to secure planning permission for redevelopment of the site before selling it on. It favours a “housing-led scheme…….which accord[s] with the character of the area and the ambitions of the community.” Early community engagement is also promised.

We’ve applauded the mature way SUEZ has started these discussions and look forward to collaborating on the future plans.

It is hard to overstate the opportunity which the closure of Benedict Wharf presents. This is a huge site – more than twice the size of the recent gasworks development – which can provide not only high quality and affordable homes but also new links and connections across an area that has been out of bounds for generations. It should transform the way we move around our neighbourhood.

Did you know that Mitcham Parish Church is as close to Morden Hall Park as the Civic Centre? With good planning and design we can create new green corridors. Two ideas are to link London Road to Morden Hall Park through Benedict Wharf and Phipps Bridge, and to link Mitcham Parish Church to Ravensbury Park and the Wandle Trail across the tram line.

A mixed development providing community-led and custom and self-build housing alongside commercial housebuilders could match the new homes to Mitcham’s needs. The sad entrance to the Cricket Green Conservation Area at the roundabout outside Benedict school could be transformed. London Road Playing Fields could be reimagined as a vibrant community green space, rich in wildlife and opportunities for play and recreation. This would be helped by removing the current boundary fence and allowing open space to reach far into the new development area. The plans could also acknowledge the route of the historic Surrey Iron Railway which made Mitcham the oldest railway station in the world.

All this and more is possible.

The closure announcement coincides with the long awaited review of Merton’s Local Plan. This includes a call for development sites to meet the area’s housing and other needs for the next 20 years or more.

We are asking SUEZ to work with us to put forward joint plans to Merton Council that make the most of the site. This will mean linking the SUEZ site with adjacent land including Lambeth car pound, land owned by Merton Council and even some of TfL’s land running alongside the tram line.

Mitcham’s development has suffered from a lack of vision and poor quality building for too long. The closure of Benedict Wharf provides a major opportunity to turn the tide and match the expectations of the local community. We are unlikely to have another opportunity to build an entirely new neighbourhood for Mitcham so let’s make it one we can all be proud of.

What are your ideas? Let us know and we will feed them in.

Benedict Wharf CLG – statement from SUEZ