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Agenda item

Mitcham Town Centre


Paul McGarry, Head of Regeneration, gave an update on the Town Centre following the news that Morrisons would be closing in March. Losing a major brand would be a blow to any town centre, but the Council understands this was a commercial decision for Morrisons. The land is owned by Centrica and managed on their behalf by LaSalle. The Council has met with LaSalle, and they confirmed they are developing plans to redevelop the site. In the meantime, LaSalle are working to market the site for an interim user, including pop-ups and temporary usage until any redevelopment can begin. Any future news or plans will be shared with residents and councillors. The Council wants LaSalle to conduct pre-application engagement with residents and local businesses before they submit any planning application. It is likely to be six months before an application is submitted with a decision possibly by the end of year. Paul confirmed that the Council owns lease to car park on a long-term basis, with more than 25 years remaining.


Paul’s team has spoken to other retailers in the town centre and has been told that Poundland, Boots and Lloyd are all staying, but they have not heard back from Superdrug yet. LaSalle is looking to improve the frontage of all the units it owns.


The Council is progressing other plans to help the town centre including recruitment of a Town Centre manager for Mitcham and commissioning market operator. The Town Centre Manager will create a link between businesses and council and help manage issues in the town centre. They will also work with the Location Board that brings together the Police and the Council to deal with anti-social behaviour. The market operator will be tasked with encouraging more stall holders and wider variety of products, as well as organising events for the market. Paul said that he wanted to hold a workshop to capture ideas from community in Mitcham about the future of the town centre.


A resident said they were concerned that would be fewer people coming to the centre if Morrisons closed. Paul said he understood that concern so is working with landowner to find another retailer to use the space. Another resident said that Morrisons is an important hub for community not just for shopping so would like it to be replaced with a similar supermarket. Paul agreed that Morrisons was at the heart of the community and the landowner is marketing the site to other potential retailers including food.


A resident asked if Merton Council had spoken with other councils about other options. Paul said that where we don’t own the building, we have no control of how it is marketed or who moves in but can market the council owned spaces to make Mitcham more vibrant. A resident asked if there had been any feedback from Morrisons on why they moved out and what could be done to encourage another retailer. Paul said Morrisons wrote to Merton to say it was mainly about national issues and market competition, and it was worth remembering that Morrisons did not own the site so it would be easier to dispose of than other stores.


A resident said it was important that any empty site to not become a hub for anti-social behaviour. Paul said that he is working with the landowner to make this does not happen. Successful retail is not just about shopping, as it is also about the experience so happy to work with landowner to identify opportunities to improve the attractiveness of the town centre.


A resident asked what will be developed on the site as they did not want to see high rise buildings. Paul said that the Local Plan specifies site can be retail, leisure, or culture with housing above, but we have no detail on what is being proposed as yet.


A resident said that as Transport for London is rationalising bus services, they are worried about 200 not going to town centre. Paul said there is no link between Morrisons closure and review of bus services. Transport for London would have to consult on any planned changes to bus routes and Paul was not aware of any plans for changes in Merton. A resident said that without Morrisons more buses will be needed to go to other shops. Paul said we can monitor the need for additional services and raise this with Transport for London. Cllr Mundy said Transport for London are reviewing their fleet so we can raise this.


A resident asked what companies owned buildings in town centre and Paul explained that in Mitcham most shops are privately owned, with just the Centrica site and one other major landowner. A resident said that the town centre had lots of similar shops, so asked if any restrictions can be placed to stop more of the same moving in. Paul said we have had similar policies for betting shops, but national planning law makes it more difficult as most retailers all in same planning class now.


A resident asked if TSB bank would be remaining. Paul said it is still access bank

representatives in Mitcham Library or go to Post Office. A resident asked if Merton Council can bring in investment from other retailers and Paul explained that the landowner is being proactive and open in discussions as well as having more knowledge of how to market to the sector than the Council. A resident asked how long the lease for next shop would be and Paul said that would be the landowner, but it could be only 12-18 months if development is going ahead. Pop-ups, like Secret Cinema, can use spaces for short times so could be a good option, but the Council is open to any suggestions.


A resident asked when will Town Centre manager and market operator begin work and Paul said they are going out for recruitment and procurement in next couple of weeks, so will move as fast as possible. Other areas have different structures: Morden has a business forum; Wimbledon has a Business Improvement District, and Wimbledon Village has a business association. Merton Chamber of Commerce is researching who is currently based in Mitcham.


A resident asked what Merton Council can do to attract businesses, and Paul explained that the Council is limited by not owning any land but can offer business rate discounts to new businesses. The demographics of the area are changing so it is important to understand how to market the local spending power.


Cllr Mundy summarised the discussion and the plan to hold a workshop with residents.