Twelve-Storey Office And Shops Block Planned For Wimbledon Town Centre

Landmark smaller building opposite station set for demolition

New look St George's House East
Plans for St George's House East

Developers are planning a 12-storey high office and shops complex to replace the existing St George’s House East directly opposite Wimbledon station.

The current seven-storey building on St George’s Road, at the crossroads of Wimbledon Hill Road and Alexandra Road, is home to businesses including Lloyd’s Bank, Starbucks, Pret a Mangaer and Waitrose.

Developers M&G Real Estate are now consulting on their scheme, which they say would provide "much-needed" grade A office space in Wimbledon town centre as well as a potential 1,600 new jobs.

They have not yet applied for formal planning permission, but have taken the scheme to two Merton Council Design Review Panels. These give applicants a Red, Amber or Green light prior to a full planning application.

The first version of the plan is understood to have received an Amber rating, but details of the latest meeting have not been revealed.

M&G Real Estate say in its consultation to proposal that it would taken five months to demolish the existing building (below) and two years to build its taller replacement.

St George's House East

Although it admits office work will change following the Covid pandemic, it claims that 75% of people who work in offices will return as before - full-time 5 days working from the office. 10-15% will operate on a hybrid basis, with a few days in the office and a couple of days working from home, whilst 10% will likely never return to office working again.

For the 75%-85% who will return to offices, it is expected that people will be more spread out than before, they add.

They said: “Recent data obtained demonstrates the importance of officer workers to Wimbledon’s Town Centre economy. Office workers help sustain Wimbledon’s shops, restaurants and other businesses.

“Peak footfall for the Town Centre is often recorded as weekday lunchtimes, often 25% higher than the weekend peak, when around 15,000 employees from offices visit shops, restaurants, cafes and other businesses. These workers also help the evening trade in pubs and restaurants too.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic and the requirement for many office workers to work from home, Wimbledon Town Centre footfall has really suffered due to the absence of these office workers. The pandemic has shown just how important office workers are to keeping Wimbledon Town Centre a viable and attractive centre.

“Developments like this can help regenerate Wimbledon’s economy and sustain it during the economic recovery.”

It adds that the new building, which will be part seven story and part 12 storey, will incorporate environmentally sustainable measures into the building design.

“There will be a fabric first approach to the building design which will reduce the heating, cooling and lighting energy demand. The façade design will feature large areas of glazing, maximising the benefits of natural daylight, thus reducing the need for electric lighting,” their report says.

But many Twitter respondents were not happy with the designs. @SarahKHolford said: “Awful. There are no words. Honestly not sure what I want. But I do know I don’t want high-rise 12 storey buildings. I want space, light and open spaces and a celebration of the arts. I’d like a small museum and/or concert hall (like @Merton_Council promised). I’d like new cycle bridges and environmental planting. So much could be done.

@Josephburne said: “Good grief”.

@jumpingjack33 said: "What's needed is a bit of imagination for Wimbledon Town centre- not just endless chain stores, estate agents and betting shops. Make it a compelling place to live and visit.

"Encourage and support independent/ small multiple retailers. Perhaps local start ups and entrepreneurs. The town centre is currently so homogenous it's bland and uninspiring. Post-Covid, people will want something different."

@GrumpyoldGould said: "Loathe the existing red brick block (looks like a remand centre) but the proposed replacement is awful. Developers need to listen to residents - we want high quality brick not identikit clad tower blocks."

"I want a slice of the vibe that Brighton’s lanes have - creative, quirky, vintage, history, expressive, stylish, healthy, surprising. It is possible. The problem starts at @Merton_Council who have a totally different sterile vision for Our town than we do," said @SaveWimbledonTown.

Conservative Councillor David Dean said: "One of the things residents notice in Hartfield Road now is the wind tunnel effect from taller buildings. Without gaps and lower heights, this road will lose all humanity. No one dwells on a windy corner. Wimbledon, like Croydon will become a ghost town, inflicted by council."

The consultation comments are being collated by Your Shout, and you can share your views with them on this link: Share your views.

Meanwhile, Lidl has asked for planning permission to increase the size of their UK head office in nearby Worple Road.

They want to demolish the existing six-storey office block and replace it with an eight-storey building which would incorporate offices and two floors of retail space.

The Wimbledon Society has told Merton Council it is opposed to the scheme.

Chris Goodair, Chairman of Wimbledon Society Planning and Environment Committee, said: “The proposal to demolish what appears to be a perfectly sound and recently built building (1980s with additions in 2003) is considered to be highly wasteful of resources, and contrary to the basic principles of sustainability, where renovation should be the first option.”

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March 14, 2021