Town centre tower scheme is now set to need Mayoral go-ahead
Twelve storey office block planned for Wimbledon town centre
Controversial plans for a twelve storey office block in Wimbledon town centre have been recommended for approval by Merton councillors.
Developers plan to demolish the existing St George's House East building opposite the station and replace it with a office block rising up to 12 storeys.
The planning committee of Merton's Labour-led council gave the scheme, which will rise to nearly 55m, the thumbs up on Thursday (February 10).
But, as the building is more than 30m high, it is set to go to the Greater London Authority for the final decision.
M&G Real Estate, who are behind the plans, have said the development will increase the size and quality of "much-needed" Grade A office space in Wimbledon town centre and will "significantly improve the street scene".
In a report prepared as part of the planning process, they dismissed the idea that the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic will reduce the need for town centre office space. They said: "Office suppliers and companies in the market are still telling us they will need physical office space in the long term.
"Whilst working from home may increase for some people and in some sectors, it is not expected that post Covid-19 working from home will become the norm."
They state it is hoped the building will create 1,600 new jobs, with people working in the new offices boosting trade for local shops, restaurants and other businesses.
Conservative Councillor James Holmes (Trinity ward) said at the meeting: "Residents are not ready for this plan. They are telling us they do not like the architecture of what's being proposed, they do not feel that historic buildings are being looked after properly and they are not happy with this plan. If residents are not ready to get behind this then we can't."
But the planning committee, which has a majority of Labour councillors, voted in favour of the scheme while all opposition councillors on the committee voted against.
Prior to the meeting Love Wimbledon had said that while it welcomes the employment opportunities it asks that part of the office development is allocated for a number of years for small businesses and start-ups paying affordable rents.
But the Friends of Wimbledon Town Centre are among those opposing the scheme. They said: "The demolition of St George’s House after little more than 30 years is wasteful, unnecessary and environmentally damaging. The building contains an enormous amount of embodied carbon, which will go to waste if it is demolished.
"The new building will contain even more embodied carbon. The resource-efficient solution would be to upgrade the existing building to provide modern standards of accommodation and energy-saving.
"The proposed building would be oppressively large for its position in Wimbledon, and wholly at odds with the character of the place. This would be a massive increase in scale, rather than a gentle intensification that would allow the town centre to develop successfully on a human scale."
The Wimbledon Society has also opposed the plan. They said the scale of the building is what could be expected in inner London and is not in the character of Wimbledon.
The group said the demolition of the existing building, built in the 1980s, cannot be said to be sustainable. It also claimed the evolution of the 'work from home' concept means there is a reduced need for offices and a change in the thrust of the Council's plans is required.
After the meeting, the Wimbledon Society said Merton's approval was granted despite the development being over the recommended height in the council's own Planning Document published in December 2020.
Merton Lib Dems said: "It is clearly too large for Wimbledon, and we fear will set a precedent for other buildings of similar height."
Petitions to urge the GLA to turn down the plans have been set up by the local Lib Dems and Conservatives. The Conservative petition can be accessed on this link, and the Lib Dem petition is on this link.
The apolitical Save Wimbledon community group pointed out that none of the local residents or campaign groups knew the detailed scheme would be on the planning committee agenda until just five days ahead of the meeting.
The existing office block on St George's Road
February 13, 2022