Back to the Future – Merton?

The Future Merton team at Merton Council has announced that it has been awarded £54.5 million from the GLA to help towards funding the Morden Regeneration scheme and so it is looking to procure a development partner in 2020/21. Yes, this may seem like déjà vu and so forgive me if I don’t get too excited by the news.

As our timeline shows, Future Merton have repeatedly announced that they are looking for a development partner, even going so far as to spend £7000 sending council Leader Stephen Alambritis to the South of France, in the height of Summer, to find one. Funding was offered once before in 2015 when Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, made Morden a ‘London Housing Zone’ and awarded a £42million development loan to “woo” development partners.  Unfortunately, Future Merton failed to  organise itself in time and I gather the offer was withdrawn as there is no mention of it after 2017.

I don’t want to put a dampener on the work that Future Merton do. This project is hugely complex, but it does deserve to be scrutinised. Regrettably, I feel that such scrutiny has been missing from the meetings held with Future Merton and cross-party Councillors from various wards in Merton.

Meanwhile Morden is suffering from ‘informal blight’ as shopkeepers, business owners, investors, TFL and the Council itself, continue to put off investing any time or money in it and so the area outside the station becomes increasingly unwelcoming and dirty along with more anti-social behaviour. Given that no work will happen before 2023, this blight has to stop now and we need to call on the Council,  Future Merton and TFL to work with landlords and shop owners to get the place cleaned up. If they cannot   manage that, then what hope is there of them working together to completely rebuild the place?

One officer in a recent meeting described Morden as being ‘economically unsustainable’. I find this insulting and untrue. Over the last ten years while Future Merton has been making grand plans about how wonderful Morden can be, businesses and shops have continued to open and trade successfully. Love Morden (a local community group) have strived to put on some form of gathering every Christmas without any funding from the Council. Morden is, in fact, sustaining itself despite the Council’s inertia and failure to improve the area.

Many of the shops and businesses in Morden are independent and have proved to be very resilient both during and after the banking crisis. While many high streets chains are closing, Morden’s eclectic mix of Halal butchers, hardware stores and ‘traditional caffs’ continue to thrive. These businesses deserve support now. Council funding specifically to improve shop fronts, closely monitored by the Planning Department, would ensure that businesses follow the Council’s shop front guidelines to the benefit of everyone locally.  We must stress that I fully  support the plans to regenerate Morden and recognise the task that the  Future Merton team face, but  I hope that Merton Council will see that something urgently needs to be done now and not put off yet again until such time that official regeneration begins.

Cllr D.W.

2 thoughts on “Back to the Future – Merton?

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  1. Thanks for putting this together. We bought a few years ago in the area believing that the area would change with Boris’s promised funding. Clearly it hasn’t, morden has everything you need and not much that you would want – in order to spend time. I Don’t feel like this is priority, nor is there any incentive in the meantime for shops to be opening up. I see very little town centre management, making pop up shops available or discounting rates to incent local businesses. We bought what we thought could be a forever house and have now resigned to the idea we will have to move in a few years.

  2. Dear Prav,

    Thank you for taking the time to read our post and leave a comment. I agree that people have moved into the area in the hope that the regeneration will happen and are very disappointed that it has not done so yet.

    That said, ironically the lack of investment does mean that commercial rents remain relatively low, and in actual fact most of the shops in Morden are occupied and there is in fact about a 50-50 ratio of independent shops and chains. But a number of them do look rather rundown and the freeholders appear to neglect the exteriors of the buildings. Sadly, this, along with the dirty streets, does leave Morden looking very forlorn.

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