Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Time To Fix The Queen Victoria House Problem?

Victoria House… that ugly concrete monstrosity built back when architects believed huge concrete blocks were the future and anything pleasing to the eye was an affront to all things good and proper;  the embarrassment at the top end of Cheam Common Road. Readers will no doubt be pleased to hear that plans have finally been submitted to Sutton’s planning department for a building set to replace the North Cheam eyesore.

Used car lot in the car park
The building which has attracted the scorn of most local people and numerous scoffing visitors led to the area being named in the top 10 most derelict town centers in the UK in 2011. It has been a magnet for squatters, vandalism and rubbish and is the first large landmark seen by anyone visiting Sutton from Kingston or Epsom directions.

Squatters notice
Rubbish dump at the back
After years of trouble finding a buyer, property developer Stonegate Homes bought the building last year and has been developing plans with the Council and local representatives for a replacement building. These plans were recently submitted to the council. It will be several months before a decision is expected but many people including yours truly will be hoping for a positive one.

Victoria House - in its current state
Artists were commissioned late last year to give the building a makeover, paid for from the Outer London Fund money from Boris Johnson to spend on improvements to North Cheam and Worcester Park. And while it is much better than before, the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ still comes to mind, (along with the cost of tarting up a building which will hopefully soon be demolished.)

Proposed view from Cheam Common Road
The plans for the new building will include 5 large retail units at street level and around 75 residential units including around a quarter designated as affordable housing. Costa Coffee have already shown interest in one of the planned retail units as have Waitrose, Aldi and possibly M&S. Councillor Eric Allen negotiated a Police Office being in one of the 5 units and there was also a plan for a learning centre similar to the one in Sainsbury's. There should be permanent storage for market traders allowing a regular market to operate near the corner too.
Proposed view from Churchill Road

There is to be underground parking for all the residents and increased parking at street level for local shoppers (restricted to one or two hours during the day to ensure it is left for shoppers.)

The North Cheam Traders Association supports the proposal saying it will bring increased footfall to the local shops, vastly improve the look of the area, create local employment and provide many new homes for families in North Cheam.

I should mention that some people have expressed concern about the size of the planned building (it is apparently now smaller than the one pictured here) and the number of additional people living in the area, particularly with regard to traffic. My own view is that with anything like this there will always be competing objectives and some compromise is always going to be necessary. At the end of the day if the developers can’t make a profit they won’t do the work and we will be left with the same eyesore for many more years. So they need to be allowed to sell units and retails space. And in return we get more car parking and a much nicer landmark and more local employment, without any of our council tax paying for it.