Tag Archives: Mitcham

Merton Council plans to develop eyesore in central Mitcham

This is the first of two blogs about the housing developments planned by Merton Council’s new development company, Merantun.

We blogged back in September about the opportunity for Merantun to “be a force for good, providing both inspiration for what new development can achieve and respect for what already exists.”

Merton Council has a special responsibility when bringing forward its own development to set the standard and to be able to look other developers in the eye and demand well-considered new buildings when making planning decisions.

It is with a heavy heart therefore that we we have reviewed Merantun’s first planning applications and found them falling woefully short of the mark.

Even before looking at the impact of the buildings it is clear that Merantun has skimped on community engagement, left it all to the last minute, and provided no information online. To make a bad situation worse the current crop of four applications (three in Mitcham) were all submitted at the same time, with an opportunity for public comment that coincided with the Christmas break, a decision which was either wilful or incompetent.

We are also dismayed at the limited approach to providing affordable homes. These are planned for only one of Merantun’s sites, at Elm Nursery car park. This is despite it being Merton Council planning policy to integrate affordable homes into all new development. The schemes also fall well short of providing the amount of affordable homes expected by Merton Council and the Mayor of London’s planning policies.

By far the largest of the four Merantun schemes now being considered is for Raleigh Gardens car park. It is earmarked for 36 flats in a development reaching 6 storeys that would set a damaging precedent for both the height and the quality of the new development we can expect to see in Mitcham’s centre over the next few years.

The quality of information commissioned by Merantun to support its plans is well below standard.

Even the Government’s own heritage advisors Historic England has said the archaeological assessment “does not provide enough information” and has told Merton Council’s planners that “if you do not receive more archaeological information before you take a planning decision, I recommend that you include the applicant’s failure to submit that as a reason for refusal.”

Remember, this is an application by Merton Council to itself which is being spotlighted for failing to provide even basic information.

We would support a well designed development on the Raleigh Gardens car park as part of wider plans for the future of Mitcham which also tackle other empty and poorly used sites. This could extend the shopping parade from London Road to Lidl and provide affordable homes.

Instead Merton Council has put forward plans on the boundary of the Conservation Area which overwhelm neighbouring buildings, including Glebe Court and the modest two storey homes along the remainder of Raleigh Gardens.

It will set the future of Mitcham’s centre off in a direction that will irreversibly harm the opportunities to retain and enhance its distinctive village character. The scheme appears more driven by a desire to maximise financial return than respond to and enhance Mitcham.

Our concerns are shared by Merton Council’s own Design Review Panel which concluded, in giving the scheme an Amber rating, that the “site was overdeveloped”.

The impact on Glebe Court is profound.

The Design Review Panel describes it as creating a “canyon effect” and the extent to which Glebe Court will be overwhelmed is clear from the architects own drawings.

The impacts won’t just be felt in how the area will look but also in the quality of life for Glebe Court residents. Merantun’s own Daylight and Sunlight Assessment concludes that after the flats are built only 45% of the windows facing the new development would meet official guidelines for daylight and a shocking 29% would be “subject to noticeable losses”. This level of impact is wholly unacceptable.

We remind you again that this is a development being proposed by Merton Council.

The scheme falls down on many other counts. The architectural quality lack any distinction and the analysis of other local developments from which it might take some cues is substandard.

The design singularly fails to break up the monolithic appearance from Raleigh Gardens and it is to be fringed by a wall and not hedgerows despite the high levels of local air pollution. The sustainability ambitions for the development are either unclear or too weak. The plans add to light pollution with no fewer than 17 uplighters in a way that makes no sense.

It is Government planning policy that “permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions”.

Merantun’s plans for Raleigh Gardens car park are of poor design and do not respond to the local area or improve it. They harm both the setting of Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area and Glebe Court and fall foul of at least seven Merton Council planning policies.

Merton Council simply has to do better. Merantun should withdraw the planning application for a rethink or face up the the fact that Merton Council will have to refuse planning permission for its own development.

Read our full comments on Merantun’s plans for Raleigh Gardens car park Development of Raleigh Gardens car park – January 2020.

Architects confirm negative impact of Mitcham scheme on Conservation Area

Plans to demolish and replace a large stretch of Mitcham’s shops on Upper Green East alongside Barclays Bank with a four storey block are being considered by Merton Council.

The scheme will set the precedent for future development around Fair Green and we believe it is both too high and lacks design quality.

It also fails to provide a single affordable home in any of the 20 flats.

The architects have made some minor changes in response to feedback from Mitcham Society and ourselves.

The changes fail to address the fundamental problem that the new building is too large, too high and too poorly designed for Mitcham’s centre.

There is even a suggestion that adding lavender mosaic tiles somehow represents an adequate response to the historic character of the area.

The new information also includes a new image that confirms the impact on the Conservation Area from near Three Kings Pond.

The architects believe the scheme will be “just visible”.

We believe the image confirms the creation of an intrusive bland elevation which doesn’t fit with the existing pitched roofline. Have a look and see what you think.

 

Read our original representation and our updated one

Is this the future of Mitcham’s village centre?

We’re backing the Mitcham Society in its efforts to retain a village feel in central Mitcham.

Merton’s new Local Plan has a key role to play by controlling the height of new development and respecting the modest plot sizes which avoid bulky buildings that dominate the street.

Our fear is that damaging development will happen before the Local Plan comes into force.

The risk is real and we are now faced with plans to demolish and replace the parade of shops running along Upper Green East from Barclays Bank with a four storey block of flats and shops promised beneath.

The redevelopment of 33-39 Upper Green East is the first major scheme in Mitcham for years.

It needs to set the standard for the future and establish the right precedents. Instead we have a bulky block of flats using designs that could be found anywhere and owe little to the rich heritage of Mitcham.

They will dominate the visual link between Fair Green and the Conservation Area at Three Kings Pond and erode rather than add to Mitcham’s character.

The developers also plead poverty over development costs and propose to provide no affordable homes.

We are asking Merton Council to demand better and reject what’s on offer. Mitcham is going to change over the next few years. It contains underused land and some poor quality buildings. This change must avoid development of ubiquitous design and provide an opportunity to strengthen its village character and draw on its rich history.

You can read a full copy of our representations here.

Mitcham’s cultural revolution

Mitcham is changing. Its proud history has never been in doubt but Mitcham has struggled to put itself on the map of places to visit or as somewhere to go out for the evening. It is a struggle even to find a cup of coffee within ten minutes walk of the Vestry Hall. So it is hardly surprising that for years there has been nowhere to see a play, watch a film or take in an exhibition. Community arts has been the exception and not the norm and local schoolchildren have too often had to go elsewhere to be inspired by creativity and culture. For arts and culture Merton has looked to Wimbledon with its three theatres, arts college, book festival, arts trail and other delights.

Yet the demand for places to go and things to do in Mitcham is rising rapidly. Whether it be people who have lived here for years or new people arriving there is a pent up demand which needs to be met. The average age of people living in Cricket Green ward is now under 35. Ethnic diversity has increased by over 50% since 2001. The opening of Mitcham Eastfields station and major housing developments such as on the old gasworks site are drawing new people into the area. This is generating new demands and Mitcham is changing. Some early signs were the roaring success of the Canons outdoor cinema in 2013 and the popularity of the few community arts event which have won through on the back of small grants and other funds.

Now Mitcham has three major cultural investments in the pipeline and we are on the cusp of turning it from a desert to an oasis of drama, film, music and the arts. First up are Merton Council’s plans for a cinema on the Sibthorpe Road car park. The details are still being finalised and no contracts have been signed but we could soon see the first commercial cinema in Mitcham since the 1,500 seater Majestic closed in 1961. The impact on Mitcham town centre will be dramatic. More people, more visitors and much more going on in the evening. This will spin off into local shops and new restaurants and, supported by the physical improvements currently going on in the town centre, it will make the area much more welcoming at night.

Then there are the community’s plans for the old fire station tucked behind the Vestry Hall on Lower Green West. After nearly 100 years service this has been made redundant by the opening of a brand new fire station near Mitcham tram stop. The building is locally listed and locally loved. Its sensitive location in the heart of Merton’s first Conservation Area and alongside Mitcham’s main civic building – the Vestry Hall – make it ideal for community use. Who doesn’t think a community arts centre would be a better alternative than a drive through McDonalds, Tesco Metro or yet another block of flats? And this is no whimsical idea. We have teamed up with the award winning arts charity Theatre6 to develop a strong business case and opened up the conversation with London Fire Brigade and its agents. Theatre6 makes for the perfect partner – working with Cricket Green School locally and winning the 2014 Evening Standard award for Best Musical in the West End. It is well versed in both community arts and big, national productions. Our plans for the old fire station include a flexible arts and performance space in the old engine house, local café and bar facilities, meeting rooms and the option of start-up space for creative and arts-based business. It could be a focus for local schools, support a community cinema club, become a meeting place for local groups and be the place to go to catch up with friends over a coffee. We know there is a huge local appetite from the groundswell of support the plans have received. The site is permitted for community use in Merton’s land use plan, Merton Council controls access to the site, the building lies empty and Theatre6 and Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage are ready to go.

While the old fire station will concentrate on local needs there is also exciting potential in the future of The Canons becoming a cultural centre that draws in people from much further afield. This would be backed by nearly £4m of investment now being secured by Merton Council, Friends of the Canons, Mitcham Society and ourselves from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The plans are still being developed but they are being designed to appeal to local people and to attract visitors from a much wider area. The ideas already include restoring key rooms for visitors, offering a venue for special family occasions, opening up Madeira Hall for major events and providing new catering facilities. This will all benefit from significant investment in the surrounding open spaces to restore important heritage assets, celebrate its rich sporting history and enhance the area’s landscape and wildlife.

We’ve heard some people asking whether there is enough demand in Mitcham to cope with so many new places to go. Emphatically yes. The population is changing, there is pent up demand to be met and there are different markets to be reached. The fire station meets very local needs while the Canons and new cinema will appeal well beyond Mitcham. Seeing the latest blockbuster in the town centre doesn’t compete with the community cinema club in the fire station. Listening to Merton Music Foundation in Madeira Hall doesn’t clash with local schools rehearsing for a community play in the fire station. And there is enough coffee to go round for them all!

We have even heard some query whether talk of the arts and culture is really appropriate for Mitcham, dismissing it as something which will do little for the people who live here. We have no time for people who want to put Mitcham down and are confident these siren voices will be rapidly drowned out. Arts and culture are essential to everyone’s lives. They’re not elite. They support aspiration, open people’s eyes, bring people together and offer new experiences. Whether it be the Big Draw or Gareth Malone’s latest community choir we have all seen how people respond to the opportunity to get involved. Mitcham deserves more.

Just two year’s ago we brought people together to develop our Cricket Green Charter. It concluded that “there should be more reasons for people to linger and things to see and do, including in the evening”; that “there should be a community arts centre providing a focus for the area and opportunities to meet” and that The Canons, Park Place and their grounds “should be restored, given greater unity and become a thriving centre of cultural and leisure activity which appeals beyond the local area”. Within another two years this could all be a reality, and we could have a new Majestic cinema back in the town centre too boot. Bring it on!

Join our special workshop on Friday 27th March

  • Find out more about your community rights
  • Nominate local buildings and open space as “assets of community value”
  • Use your voice to change Mitcham for the better

Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage is running a special workshop to explore the potential of new community rights to make a difference to Mitcham.

This will run on the evening of Friday 27th March in the cricket pavilion – the first building in Merton to be listed as an asset of community value.  There was strong demand for the workshop at our recent Open Meeting.

We have teamed up with Civic Voice – the national charity for the civic movement – to run the event.

It will include a short walkabout, expert presentation and an opportunity for you to discuss and identify potential buildings and land to be recognised for their contribution to the community.  We will produce an action plan for Mitcham which identifies the buildings and land we most value.

It would be helpful to know if you will be joining us – please send an email to info@mitchamcricketgreen.org.uk

Programme

5.00pm    Walkabout – meet opposite cricket pavilion
6.15pm    Welcome and introduction
6.20pm    Introduction to assets of community value
7.00pm    Group discussion of candidate buildings and land to be nominated
7.45pm    Selecting priorities and action plan
7.55pm    Next steps
8.00pm    Close

Please feel free to join us at 6.15 if you cannot make the walkabout.

The event will be run by Tony Burton (trustee, MCGC&H) and Sarah James (Civic Voice).

Read more about our successful campaign to have Mitcham Cricket Pavilion recognised as an asset of community value.

Mitcham town centre regeneration project gathers steam

We’re excited about new proposals for regenerating Mitcham Town Centre.

Merton council has secured at least £3 million to invest in Mitcham town centre. The focus will be on the Fair Green, with a keen eye on breathing new life into the market, shops and open space as part of the scheme. There is also money to improve roads and transport.

The council is about to start on a major public consultation programme so that local people can influence how the money is spent.

A consultation document will be delivered to the 22,000 homes in the CR4 postcode. Schools, libraries, faith and other groups will also be contacted.

There will be a consultation event on Fair Green on 22, 23 and 24 November.

Visit the Rediscover Mitcham web site today – and watch it for further developments.