Plans to build 15 new flats on top of existing homes have been refused by Merton Council after a council blunder led to a High Court battle. The plans for Watermill Way in Colliers Wood came before the council’s planning committee for a second time on Thursday night (March 17).
The application was approved by the same committee in June 2021 but the decision was quashed three months later by the High Court. This was after a legal challenge on the basis that comments from the council ’s conservation officer were not presented to the committee.
The proposed development was to extend the Bennetts Courtyard development, which is made up of 52 flats across three four-storey buildings. The plans received a total of 86 objections.
The flats are next to the Wandle River and fall in a conservation area behind Abbey Mills, an 18th century textile mill, now home to shops and restaurants. The conservation officer comments included on the latest report, said: “I do not feel that the proposed additional floor is an enhancement to the existing building, the riverside location or the conservation area.
“Bennetts Courtyard is a well-designed development which complements its historic industrial location. The contrasting materials of the proposed additional floor do not embellish these buildings but detract from the simple industrial lines which form its character. It would be preferable that the proportions of this development was not marred with an additional floor.”
At the meeting, committee chair Dave Ward said the omission of the comments was an error. He added: “Any suggestion that this was done deliberately to force the committee’s hand or force through this application is absolutely erroneous and I won’t have it repeated in this chamber.”
Paul Tucker, a barrister speaking on behalf of the applicant DaviesMurch, said: “This is a site that’s in a growth area that is expected to develop a significant quantum of new homes over the coming years. That includes by making more efficient use of land, which is exactly what this proposal does.”
The plans were recommended for approval by council planners but councillors voted to refuse the application with five votes to three.