Merton Council

Home Home Merton Adult Education Home Home Jobs in children's social care Home Merton Means Business Home Wandle Valley Low Carbon Zone Home Safeguarding Children Board
How do I contact my councillor?

Agenda item

Local Plan

·             Appendix 1: Merton’s Local Plan -  post hearings consultation on Main Modifications

·             Appendix 2: Schedule of Main Modifications

·             Appendix 3: link to interactive Policies Map

·             Appendix 4: sustainability appraisal of Merton’s Local Plan Main Modifications



Tara Butler presented the report.


The committee received representation from Ward Cllr Neaverson who raised points including:

·       At 19 storeys tall Britannia Point dwarfed over the rest of Colliers Wood, Visible as far as Streatham and Sutton, its scale was out of keeping with the local character.

·       Considering the needs for homes in London, constructing them on this site was common sense. What was not common sense was building something even taller than the current tower. The original Local Plan agreed with this, but the Planning Inspector now wished to see the height limit removed. Ward Councillors and over 650 residents who signed a petition fundamentally disagreed.

·       There should be no building taller in Colliers Wood then the current tower.

·       Defining a places character seemed nebulous but was something many believe was precious.

·       People wanted to feel part of their community.

·       Resident should have reasonable requests listened to, especially when it created a structure that would tower over the community for decades.

·       They did not say to building nothing but building something taller than the existing tower would further undermine what makes Colliers Wood special. It would rob homes and the local primary school of sunlight and worsen the wind impact felt around the tower.

·       A resident was recently blown down by the winds outside of the tower. No one should feel scared walking around the town centre.

·       Decisions at the site mattered, they needed to get things right and encourage developments that enhanced and respected the character and environment of the community.

·       An explicit limit on the height of new buildings was an obvious and unambiguous way to support this.


The committee received representation from Ward Cllr Cooper-Marbiah who raised points including:

·       Strongly believed it was wrong to close the height restrictions on future buildings.

·       Collier Wood was a fantastic place to live, work and learn. There was nowhere quite like Colliers Wood in London.

·       Streets were steeped in history, had charming low-rise blocks and housing with its own local heritage which led to a village like centre, giving Colliers Wood a unique community feel loved by residents and visitors.

·       The Planning Inspectors proposal to remove the 19 storey clause would rob Colliers Wood of its identity and heritage.

·       A further Britannia Point would further worsen the dangerous wind impact felt around the tower by pedestrians and cyclist and would cast shadows on homes, businesses, cafes and shops. This would affect day to day lives and the economy.

·       Sustainability and climate change must also be a focus of the committee.

·       The close proximity of the Wandle River which, in a floodplain, was also of concern due to the potential impact on neighbouring properties.

·       Britannia Point was of out character with the low-rise nature of the neighbourhood. No one would approve such a structure today so why would they allow another 26 storey twin building right next to it.

·       It was not just Ward Councillors who felt this way, the local MP and almost 700 residents all vehemently opposed the removal of the clause.

·       They were not against increased housing developments but believed the local plan needed to have the right protections in place to ensure responsible developers and a fair, balanced and responsible development plan across the borough.

·       Removing the clause that Britannia Point was the pinnacle would encourage wrong developments and developers.


The committee received representation from Ward Cllr Hicks who raised points including:

·       Cheered by discussions on appropriate heights but was troubled by heights carrying great weight.

·       A charm of Wimbledon was how close to the centre you could find residential streets. The edge of the 24m zone edged onto a garden on a pretty road. Some of such roads were either allocated for 40m buildings or were within the 24m zone.

·       Despite the conservation area which was full of listed buildings, restaurants and flats it was within the 24m tall building line and just beside the 40m line.

·       The map within the report appeared to contain a conflict as it had a red circle delineating 49m, the amber circle delineating 40m and the black line which had 24m. The 40m circle extended to Tabor Grove which was a quiet residential street. If this could be addressed, it should be.

·       It was important to resist anything that would make it harder to say ‘no’. There was a push for height in the centre of Wimbledon.

·       Tall buildings going onto the residential streets of Hillside should be an amendment we resist.

·       Why are we losing the local in local amenity. The word ‘local’ had been taken out or edited and mere amenity was a more flexible concept which may not be helpful.


The Chair invited Ward Councillor Neaverson to respond to clarify details raised within questions from the committee.


The Ward Councillor informed the committee of the following:

·       At one site, what they were potentially looking was far above what they should be considering anywhere in the area. No height limit allowed for all manners of developments.

·       It was vital for limits which would help local residents understand what was possible and gave clear guidance to developers.

·       Issues from the current site were well documented but this was about not allowing a site to massively tower over what was there currently.


In response to questions raised by the committee, Officers advised:

·       Consultants were currently working on drafting the walking, cycling and curb side strategy. It is the intention that this will be ready in time.

·       Changes to the Biodiversity and Access to Nature Policy were as follows:

o   Section D: Introduction of the 10% statutory requirement for major and smaller sites. The 10m buffer came from environment agency legislation and would be applied were feasible.

o   Section F: Address the deficiency of access to nature and included all major developments.

·       Policy 15.10 tried to strike a balance between the fact that there were often plants or it could be lift shafts, boilers, heat pumps and a variety of different things. It would often be found with commercial properties with extractor fans which could be aggravating for residents when not sited well, hence the reference to impact to living conditions and amenity.

·       Paragraph 15.3.19 referred to a number of protected species and particularly emphasised swift bricks. Two types of guidance on swift bricks were referenced and they already received a response to the consultation from Wimbledon Swifts who advised for one of the references to be updated to a particular British standard, which was appropriate to do, and to change the link to the Swift Conservation Group to another organisation which met British standards. The response from the Wimbledon Swifts would be circulated to members and published online.

·       In April 2023, the Inspectors shared their views on particular sites. During this time there were many changes to national policy and the government introduced requirements for a National Design Guide and National Model Design Codes. The Inspectors also included the requirement that for sites that are suitable for tall buildings, either the Council or the applicant should prepare a design guide or a design code. It was added quite late, but this was because it came into national policy quite late. Reference the proposed new paragraph below 12.1.5 provided wording.

·       Decisions should be made based on the adopted policy at the time of determination and this policy is not yet adopted. As a plan goes through the examination stage and gathers material weight it becomes a material consideration, however, advice from legal on unresolved issues is to give limited weight to such issues. Building height could be considered as a material consideration for a planning decision but you may consider it to have limited weight until the plan is adopted. Moderate or significant weight would not usually be given until the inspectors report has been published.

·       Government introduced a proposal to ensure Local Plans took 30months from start to finish.

·       Members had discretion to make decisions contrary to policy if material considerations indicated otherwise. The GLA advised that instead of stating a ‘maximum’ height, it should be ‘appropriate’ height to give members discretion.

·       GLA letters were online, but officers could send links to copies as requested.

·       Any discussion around building heights in London was tied inextricably to housing delivery. The lower the housing land supply the greater the risk of going to appeal on height. The two factors needed balancing against each other. To limit height on a taller building site, there would need to be a good level of housing delivery elsewhere across the borough.

·       D12.2 paragraph S did not go into specific detail such as EV, but it was mentioned extensively in the Transport chapter. This section emphasised the location, scale, setting and layout of the site.

·       D12.2 point B was moved as opposed to taken out of the plan.

·       If members were able to apply conditions in relation to car and bike club credits, the new policy would not change this. At present the plan referred to car club but members could propose to include e bike hire Although members would have a new Local Plan which carried great weight, the principle of decision making would still be that applications needed to be determined in accordance with the Local Plan and other material considerations. Inspectors tend to not be keen on policies that were too prescriptive and set a requirement which attempted to cover all applications in all circumstances. The emerging Transport Strategy would be best placed to explore this further.

·       Most parking apps advised where to park hired electric bikes, with a reduction in fees when parked in the correct place. Anyone using an app, such as Human Forest, had a financial incentive to park in an appropriate place. It was uncertain if the Local Plan would have an effect in the Council’s ability to roll out more bikes.

·       In relation to paragraphs 16.4.6 onwards, the current London Plan required all parking spaces to have passive EV parking provisions. The act of provision current standard was for 20% and applied to disables spaces, on the grounds that not every person with a disability had an electric vehicle. As there was a 100% passive provision, it was much easier to put in the technology when necessary.

·       T16.4, paragraph D will be checked with Transport colleagues for clarification.

·       The Local Plan as submitted originally referred in its policies to future supplementary guidance, but the Inspectors were clear that was that it would be unfair on residents and applicants for Merton’s Local planning policies to refer to future guidance that they had not seen and had not been published yet. Officers would be supportive of the idea to have a more prescriptive formula which said that the closer we got to 2035, a greater proportion would be needed to cater to EV charging however, this would be a new policy which inspectors would want to examine thoroughly. Officers would need to prepare evidence and it was likely that the inspectors would reopen the hearings.

·       Proposed deletion of paragraph 16.4.5 will be investigated further and clarification provided to members.

·       Paragraph 16.4.2 refers to an adopted policy from the current London Plan. Members could still consider material considerations for particular schemes if members felt there was a reason to deviate from the Local Plan.

·       The London Plan makes a point that if a development ranged across multiple PTALs, the highest one should be the point of reference. When making a decision for particular applications, it may be that entry to a site was within PTAL 3 and members considered that a material consideration when making a decision.

·       T16.4 paragraph B required certain developments to be permit free and did allow for onsite parking. Three aspects to vehicles and parking were pollution, road safety and traffic congestion. Merton had a fixed amount of road space and although EV vehicles addressed pollution, it did not necessarily address road safety and congestion. Most of the issues raised to officers was with regards to road congestion which was what this policy was trying to address for existing residents.

·       Part 1.2.43 and subsequent polices direct landowners and developers towards focussing tall buildings in the areas identified in the plan. It was still within their gift to submit an application, but the policy would give great weight in making a relevant decision.

·       The plan was updated at part 3.1.18 to clarify that only CW2 should be considered for appropriate tall buildings. The phrase officers wanted to retain but was deleted, was shown in the report.

·       Officers felt that the removal of the pinnacle made things more ambiguous. The Planning Inspector’s correspondence is clear that the basis for reviewing building heights is based on the need for housing delivery.

·       Jon Berry informed members that the Gasworks application was complex. They were getting closer to the applicant submitting new plans and information. If and when that happened, officers would go out for public consultation. Due to the nature of the application, they would go out for the full 21 day consultation statutory period. They also strongly encouraged the applicants to carry out their own consultation with the public.

·       In the existing adopted Local Plan, there is no reference to appropriate building heights or otherwise. This was introduced in the new Local Plan to bring it in line with the London Plan.

·       With reference to M16, based on evidence and a character study, the proposal is for the site to have a maximum of 10 storeys, which was originally 9 storeys but the Planning Inspector said the council needed to deliver homes. All the allocations were separate from any planning application, which would provide more detail.

·       If officers felt that any of the proposed changes made by members would put the plans delivery timetable at risk, they would advise members as such.

·       Jon Berry informed members that he was apprehensive about the proposal made for EV permits being allowed in a CPZ where available, as they had not put the evidence to the inspector as to where they may be, and it may be too prescriptive. The preference would be for this to be included in one of the material considerations rather than the Local Plan.

·       Section E of the Morden Policy, as detailed in the map within the report, the Wider Morden Town Centre area highlighted in yellow was now gone and no longer part of the plan. A lot of the references in section E related to the previous inclusion of the Wider Morden Town Centre area.

·       Design guide had a slightly different function to design code. The design code typically would have detail on materials but in the National Model Design code, it specified that you could include height. In this instance it will likely be a design guide for the Morden Regeneration Zone.

·       The Civic Centre being a pinnacle building was brought up in previous consultation responses. It was never part of the plan, but some representations raised that they would prefer the Civic Centre to be the pinnacle building. The balance was that Morden, with 2000 homes, was the key to revitalising the town centre, delivering homes and supporting services. The designs, height and strategic development framework were developed over a number of years but did not put the Civic Centre as the pinnacle.

·       N7.1 was a new policy which created a local centre at South Wimbledon as a result of public consultation. For a small neighbourhood there was a lot of development and regeneration taking place.

·       Wider Wimbledon received many responses. The town centre had detailed planning guidance called The Future Wimbledon SPD was adopted and helped to reassure the Inspectors issues around design, character and building height. This had been thoroughly considered at a detailed level and consulted on with residents prior to the Local Plan.

·       In relation to the Strategic Heights Diagram for Wimbledon Town Centre, officers adopted the guidance from the adopted Future Wimbledon guidance. The Inspectors said officers could not be that prescriptive in the Local Plan. The map was indicative and said ‘circa 24m could be appropriate subject to all other policy requirements’. It was difficult to illustrate an area without reverting to the previous building by building approach. It did not mean that all buildings within the dotted lines would be acceptable at 40m or 24m.

·       Page 290 section H, officers wanted to reference the guidance, but the Inspectors made it clear that there could not be a policy which referred to guidance as Councils could change guidance without any recourse to Secretary of State.

·       Wimbledon has been resilient in terms of office development. Officers were aware that no one knew how lives would change from 2019 to 2024 in terms of working arrangements. Officers remained committed in continuing to review this.

·       Officers planned to bring in a proofreader with planning expertise.

·       A key part of the Tall Building policy was to avoid abrupt transitions. There was reference in the Tall Buildings policy that, when looking at design, it must step down when moving towards existing residential neighbourhoods.

·       Our policy had to be in line with national policy.

·       Additional funds from the 20% financial contribution would need to be spent on additional affordable housing as per S106. Previously Merton used the funds to increase the affordable housing contribution from larger sites.

·       Based on experience, the viability assessment policy had to be as straight forward as possible. Officers were working on proposals with development management colleagues to make it easy to implement. This would not require every development to complete a viability study, as that would be unfair. Officers will come back to members and colleagues with training and advise should they be able to adopt the more straight forward policy.

·       Design codes were new so not many Councils had them yet. Those who did tended to get consultants. The big emphasis was community consultation to ensure buy-in from local residents. A range of people would contribute to the design codes, then officers would pull it together and advise Councillors.

·       The National Model Design Code and the National Design Guides inform Council how to approach design codes.

·       Officers agreed to review the list of wards in the east of the borough that were within a ‘pocket of deprivation’, within the paragraph on page 361, with the view of including Figge’s Marsh Ward.

·       Policy O15.5 required the provision for green infrastructure. Urban greening and green infrastructure were defined in the glossary and in both definitions, green roofs were included. Paragraph 15.5.7 within the policy listed the required information and mentioned maintenance.

·       12.2b was required to be deleted as the Inspectors identified it as an unnecessary repetition of policy T16.1.C.


The committee agreed to the following:


Proposed and Seconded: Votes for – 10, votes against – 0, not voting – 0

Policy T16.4, paragraph F part-f amended to include bike hire scheme clubs to also benefit in the same way as car clubs.


Proposed and Seconded: Votes for – 8, Votes against – 2, Not Voting – 0

Section Policy T16.4, paragraph part-b to be updated with the following exceptions:

a) there was space in the CPZ and

b) for EV vehicles.


Proposed and Seconded: Votes for – 10, Votes against – 0, Not voting – 0

Section 3.1.18 be returned to the original statement of ‘Britannia Point should remain the pinnacle building in the town centre in terms of height. This can then form the basis for a coherent group of buildings that relate well to each other in terms of scale, massing, form and architecture’.


Proposed and Seconded: Votes for – 10, Votes against – 0, Not voting – 0

Cabinet to review the process on how design guides are developed and for proposals to be brought back to DPAC at the next available opportunity.


Supporting documents: