Merton Council’s Planning Applications Committee has made a far reaching decision to delegate all planning decisions to Merton Council officers for up to six months.
This responds to pressure from central Government for planning decisions to continue to be made while also avoiding the need for physical meetings in the face of the current pandemic. It is not yet legal for planning decisions to be made by Committee in virtual meetings.
This is a troubling move. There is a large number of highly controversial planning applications for development in Mitcham which will be coming forward for decisions in the near future. These include the massive redevelopment of Benedict Wharf and large blocks of flats on Imperial Fields and the Kwik Fit and car wash sites on London Road. Central Mitcham also faces plans for new flats. Most controversial of all would be for officers to make decisions on the Merantun schemes for Raleigh Gardens and the former Canons nursery given the scope for conflicts of interest when Merton Council is both applicant and decision maker.
The Committee plays a vital democratic role and it has exercised significant influence over previous planning applications which have secured more positive outcomes for Mitcham. This includes rejecting five schemes given the green light by officers for redeveloping the Cricketers pub and turning down the "cow shed" that was intended as a market canopy in Fair Green. The opportunity for the public to speak direct to the Planning Applications Committee at its meetings will also be lost.
Development in Mitcham is at a tipping point and the next round of planning decisions on the many blocks of flats will set a precedent that will last for generations. We believe it is essential that this course is decided by the Planning Applications Committee.
We have joined with Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage and written to the Cabinet member responsible for planning and the Chair of the Planning Applications Committee asking them to delay decisions until the Committee can meet and not to delegate planning decisions over the major developments.