The Mortlake Brewery
The site was sold in 2015 and we have been involved in the plans for redevelopment of the site from the outset. We have collaborated with the locally based Mortlake Brewery Community Group and have attended meetings alongside them with the developer’s representatives and with the Council. To ease the pre-application process the Council had already adopted a Planning Brief for the site in 2011 which advocated housing and community use, a primary school and retention of the playing fields, also restoration of the maltings, hotel and bottling plant and creation of a green corridor from Mortlake Green to the river. The brief did not specify the number of housing units but a consultation document at the time indicated a figure of max. 560 units.
Alas the Government’s Department for Education made life complicated by insisting that our area should accommodate a new secondary school for around 1,200 pupils and the Council decided that the Brewery site should be the best location for it. This became included in the update of the Council’s Local Plan in 2016 together with the “re-provision” of the playing fields. The upshot at the first public exhibition of the developer’s proposals was a massive redevelopment of the site including over 900 units, replacement of the grass playing fields with a single all-weather pitch and the reconfiguration of the Chalkers Corner junction, including landtake from the front gardens of Chertsey Court, to allow an increase in traffic capacity to serve the development.
A key issue relating to the site is the lack of good access off Lower Richmond Road which is gridlocked in peak hours caused by severe constraints at both Chalkers Corner and the Sheen Lane level crossing, whose barriers are down for much of the peak hour period. We organised – and funded – a video survey of traffic conditions at this level crossing. The reconfiguration of Chalkers Corner and its damaging impact on Chertsey Court will not ease traffic conditions in Lower Richmond Road because the level crossing will forever remain a problem. We have indicated all along that these two pinchpoints dictate the extent of development allowable on the Brewery site.
The planning applications for (A) the Brewery redevelopment including 817 units, (B) the school and (C) Chalkers Corner followed in early 2018. We contributed extensively to the 125-page response of the Mortlake Brewery Community Group on applications A and C providing expertise in planning, traffic, and environmental impact to add to their expertise in architecture and landscape. We also contributed extensively to the 45-page response on application B maintaining that there is no proven need for it and that the current primary school population can be accommodated in further expansion of the existing secondary schools in the area. We also separately submitted one-page objections to all three planning applications highlighting contravention with a number of policies in the Council’s Local Plan.
The developer produced revised plans in the summer of 2019 which showed inter alia the reduction of housing units from 817 to 813. Our objections remained the same as before. The Council considered all three planning applications in January 2020 and decided first to refuse application C and then to approve applications A and B subject to direction from the Mayor of London. In May 2020 the Mayor called in all three applications for his own determination primarily in order to engineer an increase in the affordable housing content. He will arrange a public hearing later in the year. Meanwhile the Council has granted planning permission for temporary use of the Brewery site as a film studio, to which we did not object.
Homebase, Manor Road
Although outside our area we nevertheless made a representation on the planning application to redevelop this site for a high density housing development of 385 units, our main concern being the generation of yet more passengers at North Sheen Station onto the Waterloo-bound trains which are already full in the morning peak by the time they reach Mortlake Station. We also showed concern about passengers from our area taking the train to North Sheen where we have to climb two footbridges to reach the south side of the level crossing in Manor Road. There is an opportunity here for improvement to station access. The Mayor of London has called in the application for his own determination in order to engineer an increase in the affordable housing content.
We gave support in principle to the outline planning application for redevelopment of the hospital to provide a health centre, a Special Education Needs school and 83 housing units. We regretted the demolition of 5 of the 8 Buildings of Townscape Merit on the site, these being ward buildings that did not lend themselves to re-use, but we were pleased to see the three smaller BTMs by the entrance gate retained. We registered concern about the access in South Worple Way both via the narrow streets from the west and via White Hart Lane in the east where right turning traffic from the north causes blockage at the level crossing. These issues must be resolved at the detailed stage to follow.
There are two planning applications for aerial masts in our railway corridor which are for the benefit of train passengers, one on the roof of a block of flats in Rosemary Gardens and the other at the bus-turn around in North Worple Way. MESS has objected to both, to the former on grounds of its impact on the Conservation Area and to the latter on grounds of being highly exposed and very conspicuous (unlike other aerial masts recently installed in the borough which are neatly integrated with trees). The Council has already refused the first application.
Other Recent Applications
In addition to the above we have commented on the following recent planning applications of note in our area:
- Home Guard site: swimming pool. We supported this in principle but were concerned about access/parking, noise of plant and management of pool. Council approved, overturning officer’s recommendation for refusal.
- 190 Sheen Lane: demolition to allow expansion of Tower House School. We gave this our full support, not least because it enabled removal of existing unsightly high fence. Council approved.
- 21 Sunbury Avenue: replacement house with basement. We supported this but were concerned about overlooking. Council approved.
- 1A St Leonards Road: redevelopment of warehouse for 9 homes. We were concerned about parking and overdevelopment. Council refused.
- 26-28 Priest’s Bridge: redevelopment for 7 homes and commercial floorspace. We were concerned about the displaced commercial tenants. Council approved.
- Lock-up garages, South Worple Way: redevelopment for 6 homes. We gave support in principle but were concerned about building heights and no provision of footway. Council approved.
- Pure Gym, 172-176 Upper Richmond Road West: details of parking pursuant to planning approval. We were concerned about parking off-site. Council not yet decided.
- All Saints Church: solar panels. Council confirmed that this was ‘permitted development’ and hence no application was made. However, an application still had to be made to the Diocese who supported the scheme in principle but not if the building is to be listed, which it could be. Accordingly the application to the Diocese was shelved.
We do not usually get involved in proposals to further expand Heathrow because our Committee are split on this issue. It was interesting to note, however, that the Mayor’s and Council’s objections to the Government’s decision to further expand Heathrow was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 27 February 2020.
The Local Plan
We are now involved in the update of the Council’s Local Plan which was adopted in July 2018 but needs to be further updated to reflect the Mayor’s New London Plan, especially in regard to increased housing targets and its new policies concerning Metropolitan Open Land; also to take on board new policies from the Mayor and from the Council itself regarding climate change.
Planning and Environment Sub-Group
To cope with this workload and also to enhance the MESS credibility, the Committee has approved the establishment of a Planning and Environment Sub-Group made up of architects, an engineer, landscape architect and transport planner, all drawn from the MESS membership, who meet occasionally on an ad hoc basis to help advise.
We have learnt that, following Nicky Gill’s study of the historic walls of East Sheen in 2015, the Council two years later designated several such walls as of ‘Townscape Merit’ thereby affording some degree of protection – and we were never informed! We would not have known about this had a member of MESS not contacted our Committee a few weeks ago registering concern about the historic wall at the end of Larches Avenue. We asked a member of our Sub-Group (formerly of English Heritage) to look into the matter and it was she who discovered that several walls had been designated as of ‘Townscape Merit’. Unfortunately the wall in Larches Avenue was not included and we are proposing to add this to the list.