Old Mitcham gasworks no place for a tower block, say neighbours

By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter

Revised plans for tower blocks up to nine storeys containing 579 new flats on the site of the old Mitcham gasworks have been slammed as likely to do nothing to help the borough’s housing waiting list.

This comes following the rejection of previous plans due to a lack of ‘affordability’ and concern about the height of the buildings.

The site, in Western Road, closed in 1960 after 93 years of operation and was demolished at the end of 2021. Developer St William, along with architect Rolfe Judd, took over the large brownfield site in 2022.

The latest plans come following a comprehensive rejection of the previous ones released in February 2023. The latest iteration proposes only 16 fewer homes than before.

A door-to-door street audit of residents living within 100m of the site found 99 per cent said they were ‘extremely concerned’ by plans for tower blocks on the site.

Residents and campaigners in Merton have expressed concerns that the development will be solely made up of tower blocks, rather than lower-scale housing.

While St William has pointed out that this nine-storey height still falls below Merton’s own recommended maximum of 10, residents remain unimpressed.

Responding to a post about the new plans on X, resident Rachel Erdos said: “Still no family houses by the looks and the affordable housing provision falls short of Merton’s target.”

The Mitcham Cricket Green Community and Heritage Group (MCGCH) has been vocal in its opposition to the development throughout the planning process.

Its chairman, Tony Burton, said: “While there have been changes in the revised plans, the fundamentals are not changed – the plans are for too many flats in tower blocks that are too high. The development will cause untold harm to the character of Mitcham Village forever.

Plans for the old Mitcham Gasworks site (Picture: St William)

“Mitcham is no place for nine-storey tower blocks. Mitcham Gasworks needs development and we support well-designed plans for up to 400 homes rising to six storeys.

“There should be more streets and houses and many more new homes should be truly affordable. As proposed the development will make no difference at all to the growing number of people on Merton’s housing waiting list.”

According to St William, the development provides 35 per cent affordable housing. Affordability remains a key issue for residents, who feel this provision is inadequate during a housing crisis.

The developer has also said it plans to provide more than 2,000 sqm of play space for children as well as new public green spaces. St William has also committed to improving biodiversity levels on the site.

More than 1,000 cycle spaces have also been promised by the developer. Cycle stores have also been amended to break up larger cycle stores.

In its previous planning statement, St William said: “St William is committed to delivering a new neighbourhood containing buildings, spaces and homes of high quality.

“The proposed buildings will be of high-quality design with architectural details that reference the historic use of the site, whilst respecting the surrounding local context.”

St William was approached for a comment on the new plans.

Pictured top: A group of Mitcham residents objecting to the current plans for the old gasworks site opposite Portland Road (Picture: Darren Pepe)

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