Shopkeepers rally to support Mitcham bus lane
Front row left to right - Councillor Geraldine Stanford, Councillor Peter Walker, Sudharman Perera, Vijay Patel, Fedor Kalais, Kayode Elegbede, Onder Akar
Shopkeepers have rallied to support a proposed bus lane through Mitcham town centre.
The bus lane through Mitcham Fair Green would form part of the £6.2m Rediscover Mitcham Project to revitalise the area but the controversial proposal has divided opinion.
While some residents and businesses are strongly opposed to the plans, others have said they would welcome the change which the council predicts will increase footfall in the area by 6,000 people per day.
Supporters were joined by Figge's Marsh ward councillor, Peter Walker (Labour), a strong supporter of the plan.
Vijay Patel, 61, has run the Same Day Snaps shop at the Fair Green for the last 30 years and started a petition in support of the plans which has attracted the signatures of 34 businesses in the town centre including Morrisons, Boots, Halifax and Lloyds TSB.
Mr Patel said problems began for shopkeepers when the area was first pedestrianised nearly two decades ago.
He said: "Since 1994 Mitcham has always struggled but with McDonalds moving out and others it has had a knock on effect to all businesses.
"We do need the bus lane.
"People who have bags will be able to get home more easily and it will be more convenient for people to stop in.
"It would be a wonderful change and people would be able to view the shops."
He added: "There’s been a decline because what happened is that big businesses want visibility.
"If there’s no visibility there’s no business.
"You may have the most wonderful shop and ideas bit these ideas will not be any good to the local shop owners or for marketing your business because no one can see it."
Overall plans for the Rediscover Mitcham Project were approved by the council’s Street Advisory Management Committee (SMAC) last month, but plans for a bus lane were opposed by councillors on the committee.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Andrew Judge, decided to press ahead with the plan calling it a "balanced solution that takes into account the need for an active, vital and prosperous town centre as well as the need to preserve coherent green space."
The decision has since been called in by opposition councillors with the Sustainable Communities Overview & Scrutiny Panel voting to re-consult on the plans, this time involving Figges Marsh and Cricket Green councillors in drafting the document.
Alternative suggestions for the area include reconsidering the placement of existing bus stops and removing the gyratory.