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  Unfortunately, Future Merton failed to  organise itself in time and I gather the offer was withdrawn as there is no mention of it after 2017.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.

11 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.

  3. Thank you for the most realistic, non-politicised analysis of the situation. Great summary, put in an easy to understand way.

    Having bought in Morden in 2007, I was happy to learn of the plans to regenerate soon after. Now being 2020, the disinterest in regeneration is obvious, so is the public waste of funds.

    So terribly disappointing and wrong.

    But I’m sure Stephen Alambritis had a wonderful summer in France!

    Local.

  4. Dear Sam,

    Thank you for taking the time to read our blog and comment. Certainly there are many residents like yourself who moved to the area looking forward to seeing it being regenerated, but 12 years on are dismayed by the lack of progress.

    However, I can reassure you that the project has not ‘gone off the boil’ and officers at the council are as keen as ever that is should happen, but it s a complex project.

    I would hazard a guess that what frustrates resident’s, is the annual ‘fanfare’ of the council announcing they are seeking a development partner with works being imminent thereafter, but then seemingly nothing actually happens!

    With funding once again being granted, and the search back on for a development partner within the next 18 months, lets hope that work does begin as planned.

  5. Is there anyway of getting better transparency from Future Merton, what is particularly frustrating is the fact that there no frequent progress update, whilst I appreciate that some of this is commercially sensitive – it would be good to understand at high level what progress is being made. I’m not sure I actually understand the barriers the councils other that ‘this is a big long complex project’

    1. Dear Praveen,

      In fairness you can sign up to email alerts from the Future Merton team, their last one was November last year see:
      https://www.merton.gov.uk/planning-and-buildings/regeneration-projects/make-more-of-morden#titleCol20

      We are also hoping to have one of the team as guest speaker at our April meeting and they will be explaining the reasons why it is taking so long in more detail.

      You can sign up for our alerts re this, if you have not already done so, on our contact page.

  6. We bought in Morden 5 years ago on the premise that the area was going to be regenerated. It’s ideal in terms of transport links and the AMAZING park that it has to offer, but the town centre is a total dump. Why would anyone want to spend time there?
    If the council and Future Morden got their act together, this area could be one of the most amazing places to live/visit out of all the Southern Boroughs of London.
    The housing is cheap (for London boroughs) and the fact that the tube is the first stop on the line, which only takes 20mins to get to Zone 1 would entice any future resident to the area, IF the town centre had a makeover.

    I’ve been following various websites on this matter for the past 5 years and there is no clarity as to why the project keeps getting delayed further.

    Regards,

    Peter

    1. Dear Peter,

      Thank you for your comments. Sadly the lack of progress was the very reason that I felt the need to write this article.

      Of course now, the Covid pandemic will [most likely] put a further hiatus on the project.

      While nothing has officially been announced (the officers working on this do have many other pressing issues on getting Morden and Merton moving again) I certainly do not envisage anything progressing for some years yet.

      Note however this is just my opinion based on sticking a finger in the wind!

      Regards,

      Cllr. Wilkinson

  7. The lack of progress regarding the development of Morden is scandalous. Not only is the town centre shockingly run down but the up keep and maintenance of the surrounding area is astonishingly poor. It is very interesting seeing the neglect that the council allows in Morden but then with a short bus ride to Wimbledon, the area is immaculate.

    The council will no doubt use COVID-19 as a further excuse for delay. My view is that the time has come to hold the relevant Council officers to account. Where there is a public appetite for significant change as well funding allocated to aid with the developer procurement process there can be no excuses. The project is not as complex as the Council likes to make out. It is certainly not that complex that it should take 12 years to reach this stage.

    1. Dear Matthew,

      Apologies that your comments were not approved for publication sooner. And indeed I personally approve of your comments in both senses, in that I too agree that 12 years is far too long to have spent ‘discussing’ and even publicising Morden Regeneration with absolutely nothing happening other than a re-furb of some of the shops on Morden Court Parade, now some years ago!

      It will be interesting to see if the Government’s new white paper, ‘Planning for the Future’ will help or hinder development.

      Kind Regards,

      Cllr. Wilkinson

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