Tag Archives: Cricket Green Conservation Area

White Hart flats plan still falls short

Merton Council is set to decide on the latest plan to repurpose the White Hart and build flats in its car park during the next few weeks.

We have long supported some development here. It can restore the Grade II listed building and re-open the pub that lies at the very heart of the Conservation Area.

Merton Council’s draft Local Plan echoes our call for the building to be used as a restaurant or pub.

Unfortunately, the best that’s on offer in the new plan is to convert most of the listed building into flats and provide an office or something similar on the ground floor.

Merton Council turned down an earlier plan that would have damaged the Conservation Area and done nothing to restore the listed building. The developer has appealed and this appeal is now pending the decision on the latest scheme.

We have been encouraged by the opportunity to meet with the architects and discuss the revised plans but remain concerned by them persisting with the planning appeal.

The latest plan provides 18 flats and is one storey lower than the previous one. Unfortunately, this does not remove its impact on the key view of the White Hart from Cricket Green. The new flats will be visible over the top of the listed building and the characteristic hipped profile of the White Hart’s sloping roofline will be lost. They will also be highly visible over London Box Sash windows from near the new Cricketers flats.

The plan to remove all 13 trees from the site and replace them with just six of unknown quality and variety is unacceptable.

It continues the worrying local trend towards felling trees without adequate replacements despite the climate and wildlife emergencies. We’ve asked for revised plans that increase the tree canopy by at least 10%. This can be easily achieved by investing in the run down land between the current car park and Broadway Gardens. This will also benefit the residents of Highfield Court. On the plus side it is good to see a change in the plans to ensure that any new development is serviced from the rear.

The development also fails to meet Merton Council’s expectation for 40% of new homes to be affordable, offers just one three-bedroomed flat instead of the six expected by planning policy and includes some “single aspect” homes which only have windows on one side.

We’re disappointed that we must object to the new plans. It is very clear what changes need to be made to deliver what everyone wants – well designed affordable homes tucked behind the White Hart to fit in with the Conservation Area, provide more trees and restore the listed White Hart as a centre piece of the area. We stand ready to work with the developer and Merton Council to secure this result.

Read our comments on the latest plan for the White Hart here.

Last chance for Benedict Wharf

The fate of Benedict Wharf and the largest development in Mitcham for generations is coming to a head. Following refusal of planning permission by Merton Council back in June the Mayor of London has taken over the decision and will cast judgment after a Representation Hearing on Tuesday 8th December.

We’ve written before about the plans for Benedict Wharf triggered by SUEZ moving its waste management operation to a new location in Beddington Lane. We’re glad to see the back of the lorries, noise and smell, and SUEZ committed itself to leaving behind a legacy to be proud of.

The reality is very different. Instead of providing a natural extension of Mitcham which meets local housing needs, SUEZ is dumping a mega development of 10 storey flats and 850 homes on the area and still failing to provide homes which are in reach of local people. Once permission is granted SUEZ will cut and run. The site will be sold to London Square, the self-professed “property company with a difference” whose team largely learned their trade at Barratt Developments.

We have commissioned new research from the influential social enterprise Create Streets which confirms our worst fears. SUEZ’s plans are a major overdevelopment of the site, they prioritise housing numbers over design quality and they ignore community preferences.

We have been dismayed to find Merton Council’s new leader, Mark Allison, has written to the Mayor supporting the plans. Remember, this scheme has been rejected by the Planning Applications Committee. It has been opposed by all three Cricket Green ward councillors and local MP, Siobhain McDonagh has described it as “an extraordinary overdevelopment of the site”. Siobhain is speaking against the plans at the Hearing. For all this to be undermined by the Council’s leadership is truly shocking.

The Mayor’s officers have admitted that “that the proposed development would alter the setting of the Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area” and cause “harm”. They have also recommended not only that permission is granted but that the detailed plans that follow should provide no fewer than 840 homes. Their report barely pays lip service to the concerns of the local community articulated over many years.

As a result we have called on the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, to intervene and call-in the planning decision. The Government has recently amended the London Plan to support “gentle densification” in areas like Mitcham and the Benedict Wharf plans ride roughshod over this new approach before it is even out of the starting blocks. This is the last line of defence against a damaging decision being made that will scar Mitcham for decades.

Benedict Wharf is the largest of a flood of proposals for new flats all within 10 minutes walk of the cricket ground. Our efforts to protect trees and green spaces, provide truly affordable homes and protect the Conservation Area is putting extra demands on our charitable resources. We have launched a crowdfunder to raise £1,500 to support this work.

If you would like to turn the tide on damaging development then please make donation.

Read our representations to the Mayor’s Hearing on Benedict Wharf, including the independent critique by Create Streets Benedict Wharf – Mayoral Representation Hearing

Read our request to the Secretary of State to call-in the planning application  Benedict Wharf – call in request

Melrose School Heritage Assessment fails exam

Merton Council rightly requires all development proposals in a Conservation Area to be accompanied by an assessment of its heritage impact.

This was lacking in the plans to expand Melrose School and we were pleased to see an assessment provided in short time once we had pointed out the absence.

Unfortunately what has been provided would fail any exam.

The wooded character of the land occupied by schools and offices south of Church Road makes an important contribution to the Conservation Area, with significant green spaces around the various buildings.

This is recognised in Merton Council’s Conservation Area Appraisal which notes that the built form is much more open, with large footprint buildings set in open grounds” and that “trees make an important contribution to the character of the area and also contribute to environmental quality by mitigating the effects of traffic noise and counteracting the effects of pollution….. The trees on the south side of Church Road between Vicarage Gardens and Lower Green West are a major feature of the conservation area contrasting with the more urban character prevailing on of the north side of the road.

Any Heritage Assessment should address the impact of development on this sense of openness and the area’s important trees.

Given the Melrose School expansion urbanises a large part of the remaining open space in its grounds and will result in the felling of seven trees this could be expected to be a major part of the assessment. Remarkably, there is not a single mention of either trees or the loss of open space in the document and so it fails in its task to assess the impact on the area’s heritage.

The Heritage Assessment also makes a school-child error in claiming “the nearest heritage asset is the nationally designated remains of a 14th century chapel archway that was built as part of Hall Place and stands on the adjacent Cricket Green School site“. In reality the Grade II listed buildings at 60, 62 & 64 Church Road and the Vicarage of Sts Peter and Paul are both closer. As a result the assessment of the impact of the development on these designated heritage assets is missing.

These flaws undermine the credibility of the whole assessment and will need to be addressed before a decision can be made on the plans.

Our earlier post on the Melrose School expansion

Read our representations on the Melrose School expansion Melrose School development – Sep 20

Read our additional representations on the flawed Heritage Assessment Melrose School development – additional representations – Oct 20

Merantun developments put Merton Council planning probity to the test

Merton Council set up its own property development arm, Merantun, in 2017.

Its first four schemes include controversial developments on both Raleigh Gardens car park and the former Canons nursery. You can see what we thought of the schemes in earlier blogs for Raleigh Gardens car park here and the Canons nursery site here. They don’t make for pleasant reading.

Despite the controversy Merantun is pressing ahead.

Its first planning applications are to be decided by councillors on the Planning Applications Committee next Thursday 16th July.

Given Merton Council is both developer and local planning authority it is a major test of the probity of planning decisions in Merton.

The challenge is made even greater by the fact that two of Merton Council’s most senior officers – the head of Future Merton (responsible for planning policies) and the Assistant Director for Sustainable Communities (responsible for the Planning Division and for Future Merton) – are Merantun’s Director of Design and Managing Director respectively. Merton’s Chinese Walls must be particularly robust.

Merantun has made only small changes to its original plans for Raleigh Gardens car park. This is despite evidence that they are in flagrant breach of Merton’s own planning policies, will dominate the skyline, and will result in only 45% of Glebe Court’s windows facing the new development meeting official guidelines for daylight and a shocking 29% being “subject to noticeable losses”.

None of these issues are addressed by changing a pitched roof into a flat one. Any faith which we might have had in the architects is further undermined when the original planning documents hailing the importance of a distinctive pitched roof” for “referencing the common roof form seen on Mitcham’s high streets and adjacent residential buildings” and for creating variation” and a “suitable façade proportion are so easily set aside.

The changes to the scheme for The Canons are even more limited. This is despite the immense sensitivity of a development site located in historic ground and between listed mansion houses (The Canons and Park Place).

The development will create significant conflicts with the ambitions of the £5m Lottery-funded programme currently underway.

Even Merton Council’s own Design Review Panel described it as too harsh and clunky” and too busy, intense and slightly military in feel”. We still can’t quite believe the blank elevation shown in the image is still being put forward.

Adding insult to injury is recent confirmation that the original arboricultural report was flawed and that the magnificent Pagoda tree – Merton’s current Tree of the Year – will have to lose one third of its canopy and not be allowed to grow any larger to accommodate the development.

It is also of great concern that Merton Council is gerrymandering its own policies on providing affordable homes.

These require at least 40% of the homes being provided on each site to be affordable and state that affordable homes should only be provided on other sites in “exceptional circumstances”.

Instead Merantun is proposing just 22.5% of the 93 homes will be affordable and they will all be put on one site (Elm Nursery car park). This is the behaviour we sometimes see from profit-motivated private developers. It is unconscionable that Merton Council is even putting this forward let alone that it might give the green light to such a distortion of its own planning policies.

The papers before the Planning Applications Committee even admit that no legal mechanism has been found to bind one part of Merton Council (Merantun) to deliver affordable homes to another part of Merton Council (local planning authority) and that this “presents challenges”.

Councillors are encouraged simply to overlook this fundamental problem when deciding on the planning applications and told it “should not be an impediment”. We trust they will see through this approach.

We know it will be hard for Merton Council to refuse planning permission for a Merton Council development. Given the massive shortcomings in what has been put forward we cannot see that it has any other option. Merantun needs to be setting the standard and it simply must do better.

Read our latest views:

Development of Raleigh Gardens car park – June 2020

Development of former Canons nursery – June 2020

Sparrowhawk Yard flats return little improved

The former Sparrowhawk Yard overlooking Three Kings Piece is a classic brownfield site which can benefit from development.

It is also an unfortunate example of how developers bring forward schemes that are too large for their site and don’t fit into the local area.

A four storey scheme for 29 flats was recommended for approval last year by Merton Council officers. Fortunately, the Planning Applications Committee held firm against its impact and were vindicated on appeal when the Planning Inspector concluded it would harm the “character and appearance” of the area and was in conflict with Merton’s Local Plan.

We might have expected Merton’s officers to have reached this conclusion earlier.

Undeterred the developers have returned with a scheme for 25 flats that is only marginally smaller and which suffers from many of the same design flaws that led to the previous refusal.

The new proposal is welcome for having some more design detail and improving the quality of the flats as living accommodation but it still falls well short of what’s required for a sensitive site adjacent to the Conservation Area.

The impact on Three Kings Piece could be significant but no images have been provided despite its importance to the planning decision.

The scheme is also based on parking assumptions that include the illegal fly parking on registered Town Green along Commonside East.

We have interrogated the assumptions that result in no affordable homes being provided and found them wanting. They fail to include any estimate of the cost of affordable homes and simultaneously claim to have been prepared “with regard to” and “not in accordance with ” the professional surveyor standards known as the “Red Book”.

We are asking Merton Council to reject the scheme.

Read our representation.

Much loved former fire station would be swamped by new flats

Mitcham’s fire station on Lower Green West served the local community for nearly one hundred years.

It has a special character and is locally listed.

It sits alongside the Vestry Hall and the new Cricketers flats as well as the nationally listed war memorial.

Its future has been uncertain ever since the new Mitcham fire station opened in 2015. Our worked up plans for a community arts centre developed with a successful community theatre company were thwarted when Merton Council chose not to exercise its right to acquire the building when it fell vacant.

The latest plans involve a near doubling in the size of the building with a massive two storey rear extension as well as conversion of the old fire station for residential use.

While welcoming the efforts to mimic the fire station doors and the plans to replace uPVC windows with aluminium frames we believe the new plans do not adequately address the sensitivities of the location or secure an appropriate future use.

The sheer scale of the extension will swamp the existing building. Lower Green West will see more clutter and light pollution. The sensitive gap between The Cricketers flats and the Vestry Hall secured after long debate over many different planning applications for The Cricketers will be blocked by a two storey building. And the setting of the listed war memorial which provides a focus for Remembrance Sunday will be damaged.

We believe a sensitive conversion and minor extension of the former fire station is possible. In achieving the right outcome we are asking Merton Council to do more than refuse planning consent. It owns the land between the fire station and the road and so can exercise real influence over what happens. We fear its ambitions will be no greater than to lease the front apron for car parking. It has already failed to take enforcement action against the intrusive hoardings on its land which have been erected without permission.

The former fire station is a much loved feature at the heart of Cricket Green. It demands the most sensitive treatment and any new building should be of a quality that could warrant listing within 30 years. The current plans fall short and we stand ready to work with the new owners to find a way forward.

Read our full comments on the plans for the former fire station Fire Station – conversion & extension – Apr 20