Tag Archives: Rediscover Mitcham

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. 

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.

Why we are objecting to a canopy on Fair Green

We have put in a formal objection to Merton Council’s plans for a large canopy on Fair Green.

This is one of a number of developments planned for Fair Green over the coming months as part of the Rediscover Mitcham programme.

It is shocking that this application has been submitted before the Rediscover Mitcham plans have been formally agreed by the Council.

We have also asked Merton’s planners to reject it on the grounds of the lack of detail in the documents that make up the planning application.

We also think that it is wrong to consider one part of a much wider set of proposals in isolation from all the rest.

The proposed structure is unduly intrusive, poorly designed and over-size.  It would cause significant harm to the valued and historic open space of Fair Green.

We have seen no evidence that Merton Council will invest in long term maintenance and fear extra costs will fall on market traders. The canopy also risks becoming a place for rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour.

We believe the focus should be on an alternative strategy which invests in the existing market and local businesses through grassroots community activity that will meet the desired objectives for regenerating Mitcham town centre more effectively.

Read our response in full

Why we are against bringing buses into Fair Green

We are in the middle of the second phase of the Rediscover Mitcham consultation.

Merton Council is asking people what they think of a whole raft of possible changes to the Fair Green area. A consultation document has been sent to all 22,000 homes in the CR4 postcode.

We welcome the activity we’ve seen so far to help regenerate Mitcham town centre. In particular we are very positive about efforts to reinvigorate the market and support shops and other local businesses that’s happening through the OneMitcham project. Visit OneMitcham on the web and on Facebook to learn more about what the project is doing.

However we have major concerns about one of central proposals that Merton Council seems very keen to push through as part of its plans.

The Council wants to build a road dedicated to buses (and usable by cyclists) through the centre of Fair Green. It says this will mean 5,000 to 6,000 extra pedestrian trips per day will be made into the Fair Green area.

We have done some research on these figures. Among the things we’ve discovered are:

  • The figures are in most cases four years old
  • The figures include both people boarding and leaving buses with more than half leaving Mitcham by bus. We wonder how much this  can really be claimed as ‘extra’ pedestrian trips

Please read our full report on the Mitcham Buses proposal.

We don’t doubt that Fair Green needs people visiting it in order to help it be more successful. But we think improving the range of shops and market stalls, and enhancing the open, car free aspect of Fair Green is the way forward.

We’ve heard plenty of people say Fair Green will be much less pleasant with a road through it, and very few have told us they want a bus street. Add to that the fact that we don’t think the figures stack up, and we can’t support the idea. 

We support the Mitcham Society’s campaign against the buses.

You might like to read a leaflet the Mitcham Society produced in April when the first Rediscover Mitcham consultation was taking place. In it the Mitcham Society  explains that the road would bring up to 90 buses an hour into the Fair Green and that its own survey of local businesses showed a massive 80 percent were against the idea.

You might like to go to the Council web site to see the Rediscover Mitcham consultation document and complete the survey so that your view gets counted.

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.