Tag Archives: Fair Green

Council rejects Mitcham canopy in 8 to 1 vote

Last night Merton’s Planning Committee rejected plans to put a canopy on Fair Green in a decisive eight to one vote.

The canopy, initially presented as a covered market which could also be used for community events was seen as badly designed and not fit for the purpose intended. Even Merton’s own officers, in their report to the planning committee, admitted it was not suitable for community events.

The Council’s own Design Review Panel decision to give the canopy a Red rating last week played an important part. We reported on its meeting last week.

We were shocked to see how much the Merton Council’s planning officer appeared to be acting as an advocate for the project rather than supporting councillors by providing the  information needed for them to make a planning decision. It is very important when a planning committee is dealing with the council’s own developments for there to be a clear division between the council officers acting as developers and those servicing the planning committee.

It was very clear that the quality and timing of the application owed more to the availability of external funding than to providing a well designed and effective structure for Mitcham town centre.

Let’s be clear about our position. As our representative said a the planning committee we want Mitcham to be a success. We want to see thriving businesses, and Fair Green as a hub of activity. But like the Design Review Panel we think the canopy was poorly designed and ill conceived. As so many people said at the planning committee – Mitcham deserves better. 

Our comments on planning application for canopy on Fair Green

We have submitted our views on the proposed canopy for Fair Green to the Council’s planning applications committee.

If you read our post from yesterday – Fair Green canopy gets thumbs down from Design Review Panel, you will know that the Council’s own Design Review Panel has given the canopy ‘red’ status – indicating the Panel’s displeasure at its design aspects.

Our comments give our own views on the design, and make other points including:

  • We have serious concerns about the manner in which the planning application has been handled, including significant points about the order in which certain processes have been carried out
  • We have concerns about the level of detail in the information which has been submitted, which we feel is insufficient
  • We have concerns about the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the canopy
  • We note that even the council itself has cast doubt on the potential for the canopy’s use for community events

Read our comments on the proposed canopy for Mitcham Fair Green.

The planning applications committee is on 7 November at 7:15 at the Civic Centre, Morden. The meeting is open to the public.

Fair Green canopy gets thumbs down from Design Review Panel

Last night (31 October) we attended Merton’s Design Review Panel.

This committee includes architects and others who know about building design. Its role is to look at planning applications, either before they are lodged with the council or while they are live, and give guidance on their design quality.

On 31 October it looked, for the second time, at the proposals for a canopy for Mitcham market at Fair Green. This has been put forward by Merton Council as part of a much wider range of plans under the umbrella of Rediscover Mitcham.

Seen it all before

The Design Review Panel had seen the market canopy before – in July. At that time the canopy had not been formally submitted as a planning application – it was in the ‘pre application’ phase, and the Design Review Panel meeting was in private.

Its notes were only published after the canopy became a live planning application, and only made available with the other materials relevant to the planning application after we had put in a Freedom of Information request.

Meeting in public

This time, because the canopy is now a live planning application, the Design Review Panel met in public. People were allowed to attend and observe – but not to speak. We had a representative at the meeting, and we can tell you what we heard.

Note as you read what follows that the official report is not yet published. It has to be written up by an officer of the council and then approved by the panel members.

What the Design Review Panel said

As you read our report of what the Design Review Panel said, bear in mind that it gives every application it considers a rating – green, amber or red. Green is good. No application wants to be rated red. Last time the market canopy got an amber rating.

These are some of the key points we heard at the meeting:

  • This is a building being made by the local authority and should be to the highest standard to set an example for others. It is far from being a high standard building.
  • The use of polycarbonate (a type of plastic) for the roof is a bad idea. It ages quickly – about ten years was suggested, and is not suited to permanent structures.
  • The buildings at Fair Green surrounding the market space are generally of a low architectural standard, and this new one would do nothing to change that – one person used the word ‘shed’ to describe it, another said it looked like ‘a cheap bus shelter’, another that it was going to get ‘tatty’.

Despite being invited by the chair to say something positive about the canopy and to offer constructive support for the design, nobody on the panel seemed to have a good word for it.

The canopy was given a red rating.

What next?

We hope the notes of the Design review Panel meeting are written up fast, because the next step for the canopy is the Planning Applications Committee on 7 November

We think it is vital that all the Councillors on the Planning Applications Committee see the full report to help inform its decision.

As things currently stand, Merton’s Officers have recommended to allow the canopy. Their own report on the planning application was published before the Design Review Panel met. We think this shows complete disregard for the panel. The officers report was also published before the deadline for all public comments, showing disregard for what the public say too.

All this has happened, we think, because Officers want to rush the canopy through the planning system so they can spend the money to build it by the deadline that’s been imposed by the external funding source.

The shortage of time does not, in our mind, excuse bad practice, and we have taken our concerns up at the highest level within the council. Just as a member of the Design Review Panel said council builds should be of the highest quality, we believe council planning applications should be dealt with to the highest standards, and Merton council has fallen well short.

Still time to comment

Although the official deadline for comments is 1 November, Merton council does tend to accept comments made after that, so if you feel strongly after reading this you may still contact the council and make your views known – but be quick as the planning committee meets on 7 November.

All the information you need on how to do this is at Merton Council’s web site, and the planning application number is 13/P2575.

Fair Green bus lane – we support the Mitcham Society

The Mitcham Society has published a helpful position statement on Merton Council’s proposals for driving a bus lane across Fair Green.

This is available here.

We are pleased to support it.

It is important that the value of Fair Green – which is part of a network of common land and open spaces that includes Cricket Green – is properly recognised.

The Mitcham Society also reports a survey showing that over 80% of traders and shops in the town centre oppose the bus lane proposals. You’ll find a report on this at the Local Guardian newspaper web site here.

We are keen to see other options to a bus lane being put forward by Merton Council when it consults on the next phase of the “Rediscover Mitcham” project in the next few weeks.

It is possible to increase the number of people visiting Mitcham without building a new road through its heart.

Bus lane plans will carve up Fair Green

Merton councillors recently gave the green light to develop detailed designs for a new road across Fair Green for buses as part of the investment plans for Mitcham town centre.

This followed an earlier rejection of the bus lane idea by the council’s own Street Management Advisory Committee.

There will be further public consultation in the spring and we will be campaigning for a less damaging alternative.  We believe there should be consultation on an option which improves the location of the existing bus stops and makes it easier to cross the road junctions and to get to and from London Road and Fair Green.  These simple measures could bring many more people into the centre at much less financial and environmental cost.

Mitcham town centre already has a lot going for it.  It is proving more resilient to recession than many and has only a handful of empty shops and an unusual concentration of successful banks and financial services.

We believe the key to its success lies in working with the community, local businesses and the market to boost local pride; manage the market stalls, shop fronts and green spaces; and promote more activities and events which bring people in.  This is much more likely to be successful than a new road carving across Fair Green.  The success of the Valentine’s Day event is just the beginning.

Fair Green is central to all this – it is the ace in Mitcham’s pack.  This is not just another open space in a town centre but a unique fragment of common land that connects Mitcham to its past and to its surroundings.  It may be bruised and battered and a little frayed around the edges but in Fair Green, Mitcham has something truly important.  Let’s not kid ourselves its value will be realised by carving it in two and then adding some token patches of green space to its edges in compensation.

These are exciting times for Mitcham – let’s hope we can agree the best approach for its future.

Mitcham Town Centre plans discussed by councillors

The debate over Mitcham’s town centre reached a crucial stage when it was discussed by Merton Council’s excitingly named Street Management Advisory Committee at the end of January.

Councillors heard passionate calls from local groups and residents to rethink proposals to cut the historic Fair Green in half with a new bus lane.  There was also support to remove Mitcham’s gyratory one way system and relieve the centre from traffic.

We urged Councillors to value Fair Green – the “ace in the pack” for Mitcham’s recovery and keep it open and well cared for.

After a long debate the Committee rejected the bus lane plans while backing the other welcome proposals to improve the look and feel of the town centre.  The decision is only advisory and it will be for Cabinet member Councillor Andrew Judge to decide what happens next.
More consultation is promised in the Spring.