Residents share hopes for £2.5m plan to regenerate Colliers Wood
An amphitheatre, mini Eden project, dog park or band stand are just some of the ideas residents have put forward as part of a £2.5m plan to transform Colliers Wood.
Merton Council was granted the £2.5m earlier this year from the Mayor of London to regenerate the area following the summer riots with further contributions from the council and Transport for London expected to push the total to £3.5m.
A new "piazza" is set to be created in the area surrounding the tower and dozens packed a public meeting last week to make their hopes for the area known.
Ideas ranged from a community garden, public art sculpture or water feature to a market place or library.
While residents are keen to make the most of the long awaited funds there is scepticism over how much influence they will have over the plans which have already been sketched out by Merton Council.
Keith Spears, chairman of the Colliers Wood residents association said: "It should have started as a community led design.
"They should have actually talked to the people who live here and the people who run businesses about what they would like to see and engage them from the start and build on that."
He added: "This is a once in a generation opportunity to have your say and make a difference.
"Once this is signed off we are going to be stuck with it for the next 25 years.
"If we get aspirational I think it will motivate the council to search for other avenues of funding."
Design for the area will be kept 'in house' at Merton Council with no external architects expected to be asked to put forward their ideas for competitive tender.
Councillor Nick Draper for Colliers Wood said ideas would have to be "realistic".
He confirmed public art would be a possibility but any additional buildings unlikely.
He said: "There will be new trees planted to minimise the wind.
"I have seen some really interesting ideas but you can't take it for granted that they will be there because people may want something else.
"The type of pavement, public seating and trees are all things we can be consulted on.
"The reality is that £3.5m is actually a fairly small amount of money.
"It's a lot more money than we would have spent on it if we didn’t have it and I’m grateful for it, but it’s not a huge amount of money and we have to use it to its best possible advantage."
The "black tower" is also due for a makeover with work to redevelop the unsightly building close to being signed off by Merton Council.
The development, which was the catalyst for unlocking the Mayor’s funding, is finally nearing approval after nearly 10 years of planning wrangling.
Hoardings went up around the building recently with six trees taken down to make way for the building work.
Phase one of the development will see 150 one and two bedroom flats built inside the tower which will be clad in glass and steel panels, with a retail space and cafe at its base.
A further 68 flats are expected to be built in phase two.
Consultation on the "piazza" is due to start in November with the first workshop taking place on November 8 at Merton Vision, 67 Clarendon Road, Colliers Wood.