A major project to overhaul Mitcham town centre, with the aim of attracting more businesses and shoppers to the area, is nearing its final phase of work. Rediscover Mitcham began in 2015 after a number of years of declining footfall in the town centre. Divided into 5 construction phases, the project is on course for a Christmas 2017 completion.
Originally proposed in 2012, the £6m Rediscover Mitcham project encompasses a number of elements. It went through two rounds of consultation during which time it received resounding public support. Project Manager James Geeson spoke to Premier Construction about the project so far and the impact it will have when completed:
“The project was born out of a few years of consultations and assessments of the town centre. Over 20 years ago the street scene in Mitcham was changed as at the time it was very popular to pedestrianize a lot of town centres. That seemed to reduce the footfall in Mitcham town centre so this project is about revitalising the town centre by reintroducing buses to the high street and bringing shoppers back.
“We’re probably about 80% of the way through the project. We’ve restored the historical clock tower, introduced new gardens and revamped the market square which is key to the location. We’re about to finish phase 4 out of a total of 5.
“Phase 5 will be a major overhaul and redesign of the one of the busiest junctions in the borough. It will have improved pedestrian crossing points, new signals and cycle facilities. That is scheduled to be completed at Christmas 2017.”
The restoration of Mitcham’s iconic clock tower is one of the most historically significant aspects of the project. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the clock was built in 1898 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The restoration work was completed by specialist clock makers Gillett & Johnson with the tower now including a drinking fountain at the base, electric replicated lanterns to illuminate the clock face, and a new weather vane.
Fair Green, Mitcham’s historic village green, has also been overhauled with a new granite wall garden, market square, trees and benches. High quality paving and lighting make the space a much more pleasant place to be.
The new bus street with increased pedestrian usage and improved cycle paths and facilities are all aimed at bringing more people to the town centre. It is hoped that an increase to footfall will not only help existing business but also encourage other brands to return to Mitcham.
While over the course of the works inclement weather has played a role in disrupting construction, Rediscover Mitcham remains on schedule. The main challenges have been posed by underground services. By reintroducing the bus lane through a historic road, James and his team had to deal with the fallout of its previous formations. Trams, for example, used to run down the road but extra concrete was added to certain areas as a result.
When finish Rediscover Mitcham promises to provide the town with a great asset that has been needed for a long time. Looking ahead to the projects eventual completion, James added:
“We’re very engaged with locals and we hold a number of public meetings and forums as well as posting regular updates on the website. When everything is finished I think it will mean a lot to the town of Mitcham. It will boost civic pride and enhance the area with the lovely new gardens. We really want to bring the hustle and bustle of the town back to Mitcham and provide a better shopping experience.”
To view regular updates on the project, please visit merton.gov.uk/rediscovermitcham.