Housing delivery in Merton consultation response
We understand the increased pressure on the council to deliver new housing as a result of the draft London Plan. We support a vision for Merton that is built at a lower height and a lower density than has been previously proposed, and feel that the vision for Merton must be ambitious, with a focus on quality.
We feel that the council must strive to put the views of local people first, and must ensure that the required infrastructure is in place to ensure that future development can be sustainable. New development must fit with the local vernacular to ensure that the distinct character of Merton is not lost because of new development.
Answers to the consultation questions
Q1) What do you consider as successful housing deliver in Merton?
Our preference is for more individual family homes, although we recognise the challenges in a built-up and densely populated London Borough like Merton. We also think a positive way forward is to create low- and mid- rise townhouse style housing as this can add gentle extra density compared to terraced streets, whilst not being overpowering to neighbours.
Q2) What are your priorities for future housing delivery in Merton?
New developments and proposed planning applications should involve the local community at the earliest stages of preparation, as this can help shape and make acceptable developments for all involved, instead of residents having to mount a desperate battle at planning committee stage to stop bad developments.
Where housing is built in poor public transport areas, and especially family houses, should include parking space provision as families need and want to drive a car. In built up town centres this may not be possible but blocks of flats should include sufficient and safe cycling storage, and residents within offered free car-sharing memberships with Zip Cars etc.
Q3) where should new homes be built?
New homes should be built on unused small sites which are dotted around the borough. Often there are past and unused industrial buildings on residential roads which could be converted and ‘fill-in’ the existing street pattern. Also consideration should be to given to ‘brownfield’ sites for larger hosing schemes where it can be demonstrated that it is unlikely to be used for economic activity in the future. There should not be development on ‘green spaces’ or ‘green belt’ land. There is a temptation by some developers to want to build on metropolitan-open-land and this must be resisted.
High / First Class Design Quality - buildings and architecture:
Merton must always require architecture, design and planning standards that are based upon high / first class design quality and that require the use of high quality aesthetically pleasing and sustainable materials. Design must show respect for (and enhance and restore) Merton’s Heritage Character and History. Modern design and architecture may be approved where this is of the highest aesthetic quality such that its appearance gives back to our community. Harsh, poorly designed, unattractive buildings that adversely impact our community may not be approved.
High rise must be limited or avoided in Merton; if ever accepted (and only in limited quantities), it must be subject to justification only after prior publication of a clear business case and would then generally need to be restricted to a maximum of eight or nine storeys; it would also need to be set back from community open spaces, with top floors of mid/high rise also being set back to reduce the overall appearance of height; preference should be given instead to mid-rise, which must be subject to the same requirements.
Significant open and amenity spaces must be retained and provided, such that new buildings may not be overbearing on neighbours or on street amenity.
Merton Council should be ambitious and encourage developments to be as sustainable as possible, with regards to insulation of property, and use of renewable energy (such as air/ground-source heat pumps, solar energy and photovoltaics) installed as standard. Developments should achieve high energy efficiency ratings and have minimal CO2 emissions.
Housing: Provision & Design of Affordable Housing:
The Borough must work to ambitious targets for the provision of new Affordable Housing. The requirement for excellence in design must also extend to all Affordable Homes (both intermediate and social costed affordable housing); such developments must allow for the retention or development of sufficient open / amenity / green spaces to ensure architectural design that gives back to and encourages community. Developers must provide Financial Development Appraisals to confirm and justify the quantity of Affordable Units that will be provided.
Improvement of Public Realm: encouraging open space and the fostering of both Community and Character:
Sufficient and properly landscaped (and greened) open amenity space must be prioritised to foster community and allow engagement and cohesion. Opportunities must be found for pedestrian zones and/or central squares in town and district centres and retail areas, which maximise traffic-free environments where space permits. The development of Community must also enhance character.
The creation of a community environment that is dominated by an ‘office focused’ character or ‘office-based’ town centre must be restricted and avoided. Opportunities must be provided for the arts and culture, including for open air performances within communities, with opportunity for more regular (weekly / daily) engagement and usage, and possible quality street market usage. To the extent office provision is increased in town centres, it must be positively balanced with community amenity for residents and all visitors, and with the facilitation of regular arts and culture events.
Public Realm Improvement: our three main town centres:
The quality of design and the provision of properly landscaped amenity space in the new centres proposed for each of Wimbledon, Morden and Mitcham must all be of the highest quality, with strong levels of urban greening and associated green infrastructure. The “Merton feel” of quality, heritage architecture and a green and leafy borough should be prioritised and extended through South Wimbledon, Mitcham, Morden and Colliers Wood. Should Crossrail 2 proceed, it should be used as an opportunity, in order to deliver a better, superior and more attractive, sustainable and greener town centre in Wimbledon.
Environment: Air Quality, Trees & Urban Greening:
The improvement of air quality (reducing NO2 and PM10/PM2.5) must be a priority in every commercial or infrastructure based planning approval, with neutral impact developments only being allowed by exception and after ensuring strong mitigation and/or greening measures. Rigorous monitoring must be carried out at all locations of poor air quality with the regular publication of relevant data, clearly set out for ease of quick reference by residents. For commercial, infrastructure based and residential developments, urban greening, plantings and an increase in tree cover must be ensured, with the use also of planters, rain gardens, living walls and other green infrastructure, as well as the protection and restoration of pocket parks. Any new school site proposed must be fully consulted on with the public and residents and any decision must take into consideration the views of all groups on the council and of relevant residents’ associations. Further new school sites should not be approved at busy roads suffering poor air quality.
Environment: Leisure, Parks & Wellbeing:
The Borough’s leisure facilities and parks must remain a priority in terms of protecting land allocation and ensuring the continuing quality and levels of diverse plant and tree cover, and also the restoration of relevant heritage characteristics and available heritage listings for our green spaces, whose general quality must be prioritised and retained. Planning must allow for such facilities to be provided for all ages within our population, with special focus given to the leisure and wellbeing of our Borough’s young persons of school age and pre-school groups, and additional focus for Merton’s ageing population and senior citizens. Merton Council should seek to protect garden space across the borough to maintain the biodiversity of wildlife, the aesthetic look and feel of residential roads and help with sustainable urban drainage. Protection of hedgerows, garden trees and street-trees should be a requirement of planning conditions for development and removal only allowed if offset by other means.