Merton Residents saved from Tory high-rise free-for-all

Local Liberal Democrats have forced a reversal of Merton Council planning policy to prevent developers adding extra floors to high-rise buildings in Merton without local scrutiny.

Under new laws pushed through by the Conservative Government and supported by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, developers across the country are allowed to add two extra floors to blocks of flats built after 1948 without planning permission or the approval of the existing flat owners or local residents.

Under these laws, these extra storeys are considered "permitted development" which only has to receive "prior approval" consent not planning permission. This means there's limited consultation with residents, and requirements for affordable housing, minimum space standards, or for amenity space don't apply.

However, local Liberal Democrats in Merton have uncovered a Planning Appeal decision that shows that parts of Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden are exempt from these permitted development rules.

Permitted development laws don't apply to developments within 3km of an "aerodrome", and according to the Planning Appeal a hospital helipad falls within the definition of an aerodrome, and so anywhere within 3km of a hospital helipad is outside the new regulations. Large parts of Merton are within 3km of the helipad at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, so local Liberal Democrats argued that any proposal to add extra storeys to blocks of flats in these areas is not covered by the Conservative Government's new scheme. 

Liberal Democrat councillors took their case to Merton Council’s Planning department, and have succeeded in getting a commitment from the department to change its policy. All applications to add extra floors to blocks of flats within 3km of the St George’s helipad will now be subject to the normal planning process.

“This is an important victory for local people in Merton”, said Cllr Paul Kohler, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon. “The Conservative government’s new law cut local communities out of the scrutiny process completely, allowing developers to blight residential streets with high-rise buildings despite widespread local opposition.”

“Thanks to our intervention, large parts of Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden will now be spared these unfair changes to planning policy. The Conservative government can no longer overrule local communities by central diktat.

“This will be a huge relief to many local residents who we know are concerned about unscrupulous developers buying the airspace above blocks of flats and building extra storeys without consulting the existing residents. Local people deserve better than to be taken for granted in this way by the Conservative government – and thanks to our action their voice matters once again.”

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