Tag Archives: Mitcham Bridge

Formal complaint over Merton Council’s handling of Mitcham Bridge plans

Signs on trees at Mitcham Bridge

It has been hard to miss the public controversy over plans for a replacement Mitcham Bridge. We are still hopeful that Merton Council will see sense and return with revised and less damaging plans that can be delivered quickly. With new leadership and some fresh faces around the Cabinet table the time is ripe to set a different tone which listens to the local community and protects the environment.

Merton Council faced a barrage of questions at it last Council meeting over the bridge. Many of these prompted evasive responses. They all but confirm councillors have clearly been spreading misleading information by exaggerating the number of dead or dying trees. The Council also cannot admit to having failed to talk to the National Trust about alternative designs for the bridge using some of its land. This is despite the National Trust saying it is open to discussing its use for cycle lanes.

The responses also confirmed some of the widespread concerns about the way the project has been handled. They mean we have no other option but to complain formally to the Council’s independent Monitoring Officer. Our complaint raises issues of probity and procedure which have caused widespread concern and undermined trust in the Merton Council’s decision making processes. We believe they also show maladministration.

We provide evidence that the Planning Applications Committee:

  • was misled on the compliance of the plans with cycling standards
  • was not informed by officers of any of the many organisations objecting to the plans
  • was not informed about objections from those who followed the Council’s procedures for commenting on planning applications but was informed about supporters who bypassed the system
  • based its decision on a consultation process that gave members of the public four different closing dates causing widespread confusion
  • was unaware of the equality implications of the plans as no assessment was provided despite Merton Council’s responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 and the known impact of additional noise and air pollution on residents of Watermeads Estate
  • was unaware of the significance of the proposed bridge departing from the policies in Merton’s Local Plan

The plans should be withdrawn or otherwise we believe the Planning Applications Committee’s decision should be reviewed and rescinded.

We also believe the issue should trigger a review of the way the Planning Applications Committee does its business. The Local Government Association’s guidance on “Probity in Planning” states that that this should be done “regularly”. Merton Council has confirmed no review has been undertaken for at least a decade. It is long overdue and particularly important right now as the make-up of the Planning Applications Committee has changed significantly with a new chair and several new members.

Read Mitcham Bridge – complaint to Monitoring Officer – Nov 20

Local groups in united call for Merton Council to withdraw Mitcham Bridge plans

Merton Council has just announced that its plans for the new Mitcham Bridge over the Wandle are being lined up for a planning decision on 22 October.

We’ve written before about how far the plans fall short here and here.

The new bridge is being designed to last more than one hundred years and yet we are faced with a scheme that fells trees, demolishes an historic wall, tarmacs green space, removes Ravensbury Park’s protection from noise and pollution and breaches minimum standards for cycling provision.

Everyone agrees we need a new bridge and we need it to be opened as soon as possible. It also needs to stand the test of time.

A significant cause of the problem is that Merton Council’s designers have limited themselves to considering only Merton Council’s land in drawing up the designs. Our own Freedom of Information request has confirmed that other landowners, including the National Trust, haven’t even been approached let alone engaged in thinking about different designs. Yet the National Trust has also confirmed to Merton Cycling Campaign that “we would be prepared to consider the use of Watermeads to accommodate a wider bridge if the additional width was for cycle lanes”. Everything points to Merton Council boxing itself into a wrong decision instead of properly evaluating the alternatives.

The range of objections to the new Mitcham Bridge plans is significant – civic societies, local residents and groups concerned with parks, cycling, active travel, trees and the Wandle Valley among others. We have joined up seven of these groups to write to Cabinet Member Martin Whelton asking Merton Council to withdraw the application and think again before it gets to the Planning Applications Committee. This is the letter we have sent:

Dear Councillor Whelton

We are writing to ask you to withdraw Merton Council’s planning application for a replacement to Mitcham Bridge. We recognise the urgent need to reinstate a crossing of the Wandle but the proposed design is not fit for purpose and there has been a lack of effective consideration given to alternatives.

We’re sure that you share our ambitions for the new bridge to support active travel, respect the crossing’s heritage, enhance the treescape and green space, and respond to the climate emergency. The bridge is being built to last well over 100 years and it needs to be fit for the future.

We believe the best way forward is for you to withdraw the application and ask officers to bring forward options which are less constrained about the land available and better able to meet modern standards of bridge design. We are aware, for example, that the National Trust is open to a discussion about the role of Watermeads’ land but it has not been approached about the bridge design. We all stand ready to contribute.

Yours sincerely

Wandle Valley Forum
Merton Cycling Campaign
Merton Residents’ Transport Group
Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage
Watermeads Residents Association
Friends of Ravensbury Park
Mitcham Society
Tree Wardens Group Merton

New Mitcham Bridge falls short

We have written before about the opportunity presented by Merton Council’s plans for a new Mitcham Bridge across the Wandle. This will replace a 260 year old crossing and a new bridge is a rare and special event.

Working with Mitcham Society and Wandle Valley Forum we have tried hard to influence the plans and offered to support Merton Council in providing historic interpretation. We have also engaged in the limited public consultation opportunities which have been provided where two different options were presented late on in the design process.

Unfortunately Merton Council has chosen not to respond and has now decided to proceed with the option not chosen by the public.

The resulting bridge is of generic design. It also fails to meet official standards for cycling. The plans will result in the loss of open space to highway and require the felling of mature trees and the demolition of an historic wall protecting Ravensbury Park from visual, noise and air pollution caused by traffic on the A217.

More than half those responding to the public consultation favoured a design which combined brickwork with railings, sympathetic to the site’s heritage and protecting the Wandle from pollution and litter. Merton Council’s Design Review Panel provided sharp criticism of the plans when awarding it an Amber rating.

After many delays Merton Council is now pushing ahead at speed. It will have decided on contractors to build the bridge even before its Planning Applications Committee has decided whether to give the green light and the short gap between the planning application being submitted and the expected decision is something private developers can only dream of.

We’re asking Merton Council to rethink the plans. A replacement bridge is urgently needed but it needs to stand the test of time. We believe a better approach is possible which engages the National Trust and other local landowners in finding the long term solution this historic crossing deserves.

Read our full response with Mitcham Society and Wandle Valley Forum to the planning application for a replacement Mitcham Bridge Mitcham Bridge – application

Replacing Mitcham Bridge

Mitcham Bridge on Bishopsford Road is the historic gateway to Mitcham across the River Wandle.

You can still see the remains of the old ford on the upstream side. It is located in an important green corridor linking Ravensbury Park and the National Trust’s Watermeads and supports the Wandle Trail.

It is a year since the bridge was closed by flooding while repair works were underway.

Eight months later Merton Council decided that the only way forward was to demolish and build a new bridge. Demolition is underway and Merton Council invited comments on two options for the design of the new parapets last month. We have teamed up with Wandle Valley Forum and Mitcham Society to respond.

The future of Mitcham Bridge is much more important than the design of its parapets.

It is an historic location and it is important that this heritage is recognised and protected. The current bridge carries parish markers as the river is the parish boundary. We have asked that these are incorporated into the new bridge.

There are opportunities for interpretation to tell the story of the area and we’ve offered to work with Merton Council on a project to deliver this.

The works also provide an opportunity to better connect Ravensbury Park and the new bridge should support a wider pavement and make space for those on bikes.

Crossing the new Mitcham Bridge should be an event. We’re asking Merton Council to be more creative and recognise the Wandle through some public art, such as images of a heron or trout rendered in decorative wrought iron railings.

We’ve asked Merton Council to demonstrate how the new bridge will meet the legal requirement to preserve and enhance Wandle Valley Conservation Area. It also needs to support the Catchment Management Plan for the Wandle by enhancing the river’s natural flow, naturalising its banks. reducing shadowing, benefiting wildlife and protecting the water from pollution and silt.

Building a new bridge is a rare and special event. We deserve the best for Mitcham.

Take a look at our joint submission – Bishopsford Road bridge.