A theatre and community space or residential homes - that is the decision an independent inspector is set to make over the future of Mitcham fire station.

The controversial scheme to redevelop the site opposite Cricket Green and build a brand new station in London Road, came to a head yesterday at a public hearing.

Two opposing sides laid out their ideas for the station that is currently still used by fire fighters.

Tony Burton, from the Mitcham Cricket Green and Community Heritage Group (MCGCHG) joined Dominic Lindesay-Bethune of Theatre6, a London-based theatre company, to propose a case to fill the arts void in the area.

Representing the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was Andrew Haigh of Dron & Wright property consultants.

Mr Burton said: "It is a flexible space that would be for theatrical and cultural arts facilities.

"Part of that would be an auditorium.

"There is a dearth of this kind of facility."

The groups would work together to make the fire station a place for the community, with plans to include a cinema screening, facilities for the elderly as well as a cafe for people to socialise.

The LFEPA's plans are to turn the station into homes, although the design and number of the properties was not specified.

Mr Haigh said: "London fire brigade has the statutory duty to get the best for their assets."

Among the issues discussed at the Merton council chamber in Morden were a lack of parking facilities on the site, its proximity to public transport and how the respective schemes would be financially viable.

Mr Burton said: "It is an extraordinary part of the borough and Mitcham.

"Historically this was part of Old Mitcham Common and the only reason there was any development there was for civic and community use."

Tara Butler of Merton council said that the council would support both proposals.

A decision is expected to be made by the inspector in April.