Merton abbey mills update - May 2005

As those of you who still visit the market will know, the development continues apace. The Hotel and Virgin Sports centre are almost open, many of the apartments in that complex overlooking Bennetts ditch are in occupation, and some parts of the site are beginning to have that ‘occupied' look.

Much work is still to be done, and, as these picture show, Merton Abbey Mills as a site has been much dragged down by these buildings, architecturally, financially and in ambience.

The occupied look by Bennettes Ditch

The occupied look by Bennettes Ditch [80.3kb]

There are reports that the footfall within the market has reduced by 80%, and there can be no doubt that a combination of traffic jams created by the new junction, and the parking problems within the site, have exacerbated this.

The north side is less advanced yet, but the road through is open

The north side is less advanced yet, but the road through is open [64.8kb]

It has to be said that I am now torn in my feelings. With the current slowdown in property prices, there must be doubt about the success of the overall scheme. Hating the unsympathetic architecture as I do, and the lack of any element in the overall planning of the development to acknowledge that one of the most important historic sites in England ever existed here, apart from the ransom payment forced on the developer under the s106 agreement, part of me would like to see the development fail commercially. This would force developers and planners alike to listen more closely to specialist and public opinion, and redefine ‘sustainability' as the long term future of a site and its place in our heritage, rather than the immediate profit to the developer as it currently stands, and allow us to say ‘we told you so'.

However, the one real chance for the market's survival would be a re-invigoration triggered by a the large influx of young flat owners with money to spend, and no commitments other than their mortgages. This requires the success of the development, and its associated commercial enterprises. If we link this to a more sympathetic redevelopment of the Savacentre site in the relatively near future to a smaller, more human, layout (as currently suggested in the local newspapers) Merton Abbey Mills may yet have the future it deserves. I live in hope

Nicholas Hart

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