Critics tell developers to return their two tower plans to the drawing board
Double tower block scheme planned for Colliers Wood
Plans for two new tower blocks - one rising to 26 storeys - next to the landmark Britannia Point block in Colliers Wood have met with furious local opposition.
Developers Criterion Capital want to build the 26-storey block alongside a 16-storey tower, on land behind the former 'Brown & Root Tower'.
Their marketing literature says the Watercress Island development - which they originally called "New Colliers Wood" - will provide 266 homes, including affordable housing. They claim it will add "vibrancy to the local area" with flexible public space for cafes and restaurants as well as "collective work from home space".
Criterion, which was behind the 19-storey Britannia Point scheme as well as the conversion of Eagle House in Wimbledon Village into eight apartments, has recently completed a public consultation on its proposals.
But Merton Councillor Nick Draper has criticised the wording of the questions the developers used to get feedback for the scheme. He accused them of asking "flawed questions", such as: "Do you think that new public space will have a postive impact on the local area?"
While he agreed that new homes were needed in Colliers Wood, he said Criterion needed to go back to the drawing board with Watercress Island. He said they should come back with a scheme for two towers, one of a maximum of 15 storeys and the other up to ten.
The Labour Councillor also said there should be a "stated amount of genuinely affordable housing included, a generous contribution to local education and medical facilities, totally car-free and with workshop space rather than retail or office space".
The Wimbledon Society, which aims to protect local amenities and preserve features of historic interest, is also amongst the scheme’s critics.
It says the justification for additional towers of the height proposed (90m+) and prominence has not been made and runs counter to the Council’s approved plan.
In its comments made to the developers’ consultation it points out that the Council’s Core Strategy has specific aims for the centre of Colliers Wood, and in relation to this site these include a statement that the existing Britannia Point “should remain as the pinnacle”, with other developments being subordinate in height.
It adds: "The site is within an important Archaeological Zone, with historic connections not only to the Merton Abbey (12c), but also to the Roman road Stane Street which runs along the site edge.
"The opportunity should be taken to create a design and layout that is informed by this heritage. Taking the approach that the site "could be anywhere" and is a blank canvas, misses a significant opportunity.
"The sketches appear to assume that the present chaotic and inadequate road system remains as it is. Instead the opportunity should be taken to use any development opportunity to deliver a major improvement to the public highway network and tie the project into the wider area. This has not yet been done.
"Pedestrian connections and introducing paved zones where now there is wasteful roadspace, linking up segregated cycle paths and linking to the surrounding area should be the norm for this kind of scheme."
It also raises concerns about flooding issues, as the site is on land which it points out the Environment Agency says has a "high probability" of flooding.
Their statement also criticises the design, calls on sustainable energy targets to be addressed at the outset and for the on-going support and facilities for the affordable housing planned not to be left as "afterthoughts".
The Wandle Valley Forum asked for views on its @WandleForum Twitter account and the responses included:
@AListerPhoto: It’s a vile looking building. Dated, out of keeping with the local area, aesthetically appalling.
@JohnWThomasSW19: They couldn't demolish the original tower due to risk of tube tunnel collapse and now they want to approve a bigger tower?
@OTooley: Not sympathetic to the surrounding area, far too large, and a total drain on the community. It will be a disaster.
@BSnowhand: Where's the water coming from? Our local aquifers are under enough pressure as it is. Give it 15 years and the current rate and we are in trouble, and new large building means increased pressure on local sewage treatment which hasn't been upgraded in 30 years. Threatens the Wandle.
The developers' consultation period ended on November 2, and they promise to consider the feedback before going ahead with formal planning permission.
Watercress Island would be inside the red border, with blue showing the existing block
November 8, 2020