Fears controversial Mitcham Gasworks plans will go ahead despite Met Police warning

Mitcham gasworks
-Credit: (Image: St William)

Mitcham residents have expressed shock that Merton Council plans to approve plans for the old Mitcham Gasworks site, despite ongoing concerns around safety. This comes following an admission by the Metropolitan Police of needing an additional £120,000 from developers as "impacts of the development are such that they cannot be met without additional staff".

Merton Council revealed on Wednesday (July 3) that it intends to approve the plans to build 579 new flats on the site of the old Mitcham Gasworks. This comes despite years of residents objecting to the plans on the grounds of safety, design and environmental damage; one leading campaign group believes “Mitcham and do better”.

This approval, due to take place at a planning and development meeting next week, will be subject to the developer accepting the s106 obligations. Section 106 of the UK’s Town And Country Planning Act 1990 (S106) relates to the funding of community improvements levied on developers for any major development.

Read more: Mitcham Gasworks development hits fresh stumbling block due to firefighters' evacuation concerns

Mitcham gasworks, merton
An 'indicative view' of how new flats on the Mitcham gasworks site could look -Credit:St William

In this case, the council wants developer St William to ensure the developments include adequate affordable housing, health, transport and environmental contributions and road and telecommunications mast works among other things. However, the requirement also includes a £120,525.62 contribution to be paid to the Met Police.

This contribution has raised concerns from the Mitcham Cricket Green Community and Heritage Group (MCGCH), who have been leading the opposition to the plans since they were first introduced in 2022. They believe the contribution demonstrates how the imposition of nearly 600 new flats on an area that already has an above-average crime rate will only further stretch policing and threaten safety.

Speaking to the local democracy reporting service (LDRS), MCGCH Chair Tony Burton said: "The developers have kicked many of the most important issues into the long grass. The site's contaminated land hasn't been sorted, London Fire Brigade's objections put to one side and the Metropolitan Police's evidence of the significant impact bought off with a £120,000 fee."

In an official letter from the Met’s Head of Estate Strategy & Engagement at the Met, they stated: “The development will have impacts on Policing and these will need to be adequately mitigated if it is to be sustainable, and the safety of the local community assured.

“That has to be a mutual interest between the Borough and the Metropolitan Police Service. Necessary primary policing infrastructure needs to be considered in the viability of the development alongside for example schools and medical facilities.”

Mitcham Fire Station
Mitcham Fire Station is 10 minutes away from the Gasworks site -Credit:Google Maps

Last month London Fire Brigade (LFB) expressed doubts over the safety of the five-hectare site. In an official objection made to Merton Council’s planning department, LFB outlined a list of concerns regarding St William’s (the applicant) current fire strategy. The strategy, designed to keep potential residents safe from fire risk, was criticised due to the inadequacy of the building’s escape routes. For this reason, Merton is requesting a reassessment of the fire strategy as part of the s106 obligations.

Another bone of contention is the fencing surrounding the site, which would separate it from the former gasworks. According to Burton, the lack of commitment to remove the fence would limit local residents' access to green space.

He said: "The developers can't even guarantee to remove the fence dividing the site from the rest of the former Gasworks - leaving new residents cut off from the adjacent green space and creating a new barrier to people wanting to move around Mitcham".

The plans, which propose tower blocks up to nine storeys containing 579 new flats, have already faced fierce local opposition.

Mitcham gasworks
An old gasholder on the site was dismantled at the end of 2021 -Credit:Darren Pepe

The gasworks site on Western Road closed in 1960 after 93 years of operation and was demolished at the end of 2021. St William, along with architect Rolfe Judd, took over the large brownfield site in 2022. Accompanying the planned 579 flats will be 2,000 square metres of play space for children as well as new public green spaces. St William has also committed to improving biodiversity levels on the site.

The plans include ground floor shop space fronting Western Road. 158 parking spaces are also detailed in the plans, this is up from 135 promised previously. After discovering that Merton plans to back the controversial development, despite their years of opposition, he told the LDRS of his disbelief. "We are shocked that Merton Council's officers think the tower blocks planned for the old Gasworks are right for Mitcham.

"Their own report confirms they are badly designed, will blight the character of Mitcham Village, fail to provide enough truly affordable homes, create poor quality living conditions and fall short on official greening standards. They have been rejected outright by local people who want the site developed with affordable homes at gentle density.

"We ask all our elected councillors on the Planning Committee to do the right thing for Mitcham and turn down the plans next week. Mitcham deserves better."

When approached for comment, a spokesperson from Merton Council said: “The planning application will be considered on 11 July, by an independent Committee made up of Councillors from all parties, who will make their decision after carefully considering the planning officer's report.”

A St William spokesperson said they cannot comment on live applications.

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