Tag Archives: Merton Council

Our call for Merton Council to up its game on community engagement

Merton Council is reviewing its official “Statement of Community Involvement”.

This is an important document which sets out the approach Merton Council takes to involving local people and organisations in development and planning issues.

We’ve welcomed the long overdue review which will replace a 13 year old document that does not meet today’s expectations for deeper and earlier community engagement in planning decisions. 

We are calling for a step change in Merton Council’s approach which, in our experience, rarely exceeds legal compliance and sometimes even falls short of this. This discourages community engagement, frustrates those who do engage, and ultimately results in less well informed and poorer planning outcomes.

We have identified an array of current problems and inconsistencies in Merton Council practice.

These range from squeezing the time available for the public to speak at Planning Committee to a quality of online public access to planning documents that falls well short of other local authorities. 

Merton Council allows significant changes to planning applications to be made without publicity, blocks resident representations on planning applications appearing online and often provides inadequate summaries of public views in reports presented to councillors.

It also fails to make good use of design tools which can involve people in setting local expectations, such as masterplanning and design codes. We are clear in our reponse that we expect prospective developers to be put in touch with local community groups before they submit planning applications.

Merton Council’s draft Statement of Community Involvement states that “Merton’s local communities are those that are most likely affected by development in their local area and more importantly, know the most about their neighbourhood and how they would like it to grow and be shaped for the future.

These are fine words. We are asking for changes to make the effective engagement of Merton’s local communities a reality.

Read our submission to Merton Council’s draft Statement of Community Involvement –Statement of Community Involvement – Dec 19

Open spaces matter – our response to Merton Council Open Space Study

Merton’s green spaces matter.

In every poll of why people love where they live they come out top and Cricket Green has more green spaces than anywhere else in Merton.

So we have welcomed a new “open spaces study” by Merton Council which provides an opportunity to recognise their importance and protect and manage them better in the future.

Our green spaces certainly need better recognition.

The evidence is growing of a decline in management standards as a result of Merton Council’s contracting out to idverde. Development pressures are everywhere and Merton’s Local Plan is up for review.

We have highlighted some glaring gaps in the open space database, including important areas of registered Town Green.

Important areas of nature conservation interest are also missing and we have objected to open spaces like Three Kings Piece being classified as “outdoor sports facilities”. They are used for football matches for a tiny percentage of the time and are so much more important than that.

We’re also surprised at the omission of the new green space created around Fair Green as a result of the recent “Rediscover Mitcham” investment. Merton Council has promised that this will be registered as additional Town Green but has left it off the map.

Our submission also calls on Merton Council and Mitcham Common Conservators to prepare management plans for each of the open spaces.

Most green spaces don’t have a management plan and those for Cranmer Green ran out in 2006 and Mitcham Common in 2012.

Among other initiatives we’re also pressing for better protection for the local ponds, stronger commitments to keeping trees and shrubs well watered in the summer and a plan to replace trees which will eventually die off.

Read our submission –  open spaces study – jan 19

See – Merton Council’s open space map

Planning for the future – Merton’s Local Plan

Cricket Green is going to change a lot in the next 20 years.

The community is growing and getting younger. New public transport routes are planned. Over a thousand new homes could be built.

The Wilson is set to be redeveloped to provide new health and community services. The green spaces around The Canons will see investment and a new cafe.

The Burn Bullock and White Hart could reopen and the old fire station be given a new use.

All of this could improve our neighbourhood but it could also do harm. The Conservation Area and its environs are sensitive and easily damaged. More shops could close and green spaces and gardens could be lost.

The local workshops and yards could be built over and rising traffic could cause more pollution and make it even harder to cross the roads.

Merton’s new Local Plan will have a major influence on how Cricket Green changes. It is the keynote document containing all the policies that decide where and what kind of development is permitted and how well it should be designed.

The Local Plan is under review and we have set out our stall for how it should guide Cricket Green’s future.

We’re disappointed that too many of the policies are so vague they won’t help ensure the high quality of new building the area deserves. We’ve asked for the policies governing development sites, such as Benedict Wharf, The Wilson and The Birches to be strengthened. We’ve also identified the shopping parades in Church Road, London Road and Bramcote Parade for protection.

We are looking for more cultural facilities and we want Merton Council to identify and protect local community assets such as the Wandle Industrial Museum.

We’ve asked for extra protection for the green space behind Mary Tate’s almshouses and in Glebe Court. We want investment in the streets and pavements to make London Road and Jubilee Corner more pleasant and to close King George VI Avenue to prevent car parking at the heart of Cranmer Green.

We want more trees to be planted and local ponds protected. We’ve welcomed the Local Plan’s expectation that Mitcham cricket pavilion will become community run.

The Local Plan also needs to set the standard for good design and prevent Cricket Green becoming an area dominated by blocks of flats. We favour new homes based on streets and houses.

It is important that the Local Plan sets an expectation that local people will be involved in shaping development ideas well before they get to the stage of a planning application. It also needs to be backed by a stronger commitment from Merton Council to enforce planning laws when people develop without permission.

The Local Plan is expected to go to a public hearing later this year and come into force in 2020.

You can read our full submission – Merton local plan consultation Jan 2019

The Local Plan pages at Merton Council web site

Merton Local Plan review – a time for action

The much anticipated review of Merton’s Local Plan provides an opportunity to turn the tide on the quality of new development in and around Cricket Green.

The new Local Plan will identify development sites and include the planning policies that will shape new building for decades.

We’ve set out our preliminary views in a detailed 20 page response and map which identifies:

  • fourteen sites with particular development or conservation opportunities – including detailed guidelines for developing not only the major sites at the Wilson and Benedict Wharf but also the Burn Bullock, White Hart car park, old fire station and the car wash site on London Road among others
  • the need to protect the important shopping parades along London and Church Roads and at Bramcote Parade
  • six opportunities for public realm and traffic management improvements, including closure of King George VI Avenue to traffic and removal of the tarmac path cutting across Cricket Green from the Police Station combined with moving the road crossing to the end of the public footpath running along the side of the cricket ground
  • thirteen community assets which need to be recognised and protected, including Wandle Industrial Museum, the bowling green, Mitcham Community Orchard and the Windmill pub
  • additional protections for Bellamy’s Copse, the carriage sweep outside Date Valley School and the green spaces which make such an important contribution to Glebe Court
  • protection for employment uses for the land and buildings used for car servicing and repairs behind London Road and for London Box Sash Windows

We have also asked for a Design Code to be prepared for Cricket Green which supports new residential development based on streets and town houses rather than flats and blocks.

We are looking for new policies to protect local ponds, including on Cranmer Green, and to designate all existing open space as Local Green Space, which offers the same protection as Green Belt.

We’re looking forward to collaborating with Merton Council during 2018 to help develop the plan and engage local people in these and other proposals.

There’s more to read in our full submission – Merton Local Plan review – MCGC&H contribution – Jan 2018.

We would welcome any feedback.

Call for cleaner air

Merton Council has published its Air Quality Action Plan and we have come together with Friends of Mitcham Common and Mitcham Society to provide a response.

Air pollution is an issue which respects no boundaries and requires an area wide approach.

Our own monitoring of air pollution around Lower Green West shows it in breach of the required standards. You can see the results on Clean Air Merton’s community map.

There’s a lot to welcome in Merton Council’s Action Plan, especially support for extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone. Yet, it lacks the ambition and many of the measures necessary to address the scale of the problem facing the area are missing.

Here are our proposals for what needs to happen:

  • Targets for improving air quality year on year to 2022
  • A network of air quality monitoring stations – particulates and NOx – throughout the Mitcham area, including on Mitcham Common as well as along the roads that pass through it, with data made publicly available in a timely manner
  • Zero emission or hydrogen buses on all routes through Mitcham Town Centre and its designation as a Low Emission Bus Zone
  • A ban on heavy lorries running on Church Road between Lower Green West and Benedict Wharf as part of the measures to address “hot spots”
  • Changed traffic flow at Lower Green West to remove the existing “roundabout” configuration and reconnect it to Lower Green East
  • Improved pedestrian permeability in Mitcham Town Centre and Cricket Green – including enhanced pedestrian crossings and reduced crossing times
  • A requirement in all travel plans for schools and new development to demonstrate how they will contribute to improvements in air quality, and a commitment from Merton Council to monitor and enforce these travel plans
  • Investment in a behavioural change programme to raise awareness of individual actions to improve air quality
  • Enforcement against idling cars and lorries which extends beyond any plans to act on idling outside schools
  • Community consultation over the location of a network of well-designed electric vehicle charging points in Mitcham as an alternative to the current process whereby Merton Council submits planning applications to itself ahead of any community engagement
  • Active programme of succession planting of trees and hedges throughout Mitcham to conserve and enhance tree cover, especially along major routes
  • Stronger connections between Mitcham and the Wandle Trail and open spaces, including Willow Lane Industrial Estate
  • Active promotion of Mitcham Common as a source of health and well being with relatively better air quality including:
    • Promotion of healthy walks
    • Opening up the Ecology Centre as an affordable location for hosting community-led activity promoting health and well being
    • Management and planting along the fringes to filter particulates.

Our full response is here.

Proposed additions to the Local List – our comments

Merton Council has proposed a number of additions to the Local List and there is currently a public consultation on the proposals.

The Local List brings together buildings and other structures which make an important contribution to the local scene or which are valued for their local historical associations and which are not included in the national list maintained by English Heritage.

Proposed additions for Mitcham are:

  • The cart dip at Three Kings Pond, Mitcham
  • War Memorial, Lower Green West, Mitcham
  • War memorial, Mitcham Parish Church
  • Gravestones (wargraves) Mitcham Parish Church
  • Stone monument, Mitcham Parish Churchyard

We support all these proposed additions.

Read our comments on proposed additions to the Local List.

Please make your own comments by taking part in the consultation, which ends on 9th March 2015.

See the Local List at Merton Council’s web site.