The planning application for this site was not considered in July, and is now expected to be on the agenda for the meeting of the Planning Committee on 22 August. If it is, I hope to be able to report on the outcome next month.
I ought to point out that the decision to approve or refuse may not be solely for Merton's Planning Committee. In the first place, remembering that we now have a London Mayor with statutory powers, the application had to be referred to the Greater London Authority (GLA) under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act (Mayor of London) Order 2000. The Mayor has it within his power to issue a directive to Merton to refuse the application, if he so wishes, e.g. on grounds of serious conflict with national or local planning policy or the Mayor's London Plan, even though the latter is still only a draft out for consultation. But the Mayor does not have the power to actually grant permission for the application.
We now know that the GLA reported to Merton in July, stating that they regarded the proposals as a credible scheme, with flats on about 30% of the field and the remainder gifted to the Council to provide a "public park". However, having studied the report from the GLA, we question the accuracy of the document in several respects and dispute the conclusions reached. In short, we believe the argument presented by the GLA, and therefore also the conclusion, were flawed.
There is, however, a further hurdle in the process. Merton has opted to also refer the application to the Government Office for London (GOL), which advises and makes recommendations to the relevant Secretary of State on whether to "call in" the application. The Planning Committee would consider the application in the normal way, and if they decided to grant permission would inform the GOL accordingly. The latter would then have twenty-one days in which to decide whether or not the final decision would be taken in Whitehall. If the GOL decides that it does not wish to intervene, then the Merton Planning Committee's decision to give permission - if that is what it is - stands as the decision. If the "call-in" power is exercised, the Secretary of State has to decide - permission or refusal.
In the light of the report from the GLA, we have submitted our own comments on the report to the Government Office for London, partly, as we see it, to set the record straight on certain factual points, and also, hopefully, to present the arguments in a rather more balanced way. Bear in mind that, at this stage, the application is for outline planning permission. If the applicant is granted permission, they will still need approval of a detailed application.
In June, the owners of the old Plough Lane ground put in an application for outline approval to re-develop the site. I know that this is well outside our area, but some of our members may be interested in this. The planning application number is 02/P0790, in case you want to have a look at it. Over a period of about ten years, Safeway has tried (I think) three times to secure permission to build a store on the site, and been turned down on each occasion. It looks as though they have finally given up hope in their quest.
This new application would be for a "mixed-use" scheme, including 176 residential units (about three-quarters of these would be flats, and the remainder houses), plus 250m² of business accommodation (either offices or light industrial) and - if the figure is correct - no fewer than 238 car parking spaces. The outline plan rather neatly provides for vehicular access from Durnsford Road for the residential element, and off Weir Road for the business use.
I need hardly add that this will not come as welcome news to the supporters of the recently-formed AFC Wimbledon football club, by which I mean the one remaining in south-west London, not the one destined for Milton Keynes. All rather confusing, unless you're a soccer fan. The Wimbledon News of 26th July rather briefly mentioned the new planning application, and then outlined plans by the Dons Trust, which owns AFC Wimbledon, to raise "the estimated £12 million" to buy back the Plough Lane site in order to re-develop their old "spiritual home". You cannot help but admire the enthusiasm of the Dons supporters, but clearly they face a huge task. The Wimbledon News reported that the planning application would be considered in the autumn. Bearing in mind the scale of the proposal and that it will be controversial, I suspect that consultation will run for quite a while. It is not for this Association to take a view on what is the best use of the old football ground, but what a story it would be if AFC Wimbledon pulled it off.
The Raynes Park and Lower Morden Area Forum meeting (the third) was held on 23rd July. Danny Connellan was in the Chair, with his usual laid-back style. It was quite interesting. There was a presentation by three council officials all dealing with different aspects of youth crime and youth activity (or lack of it). We had something approaching a constructive two-way discussion, which is an achievement. The three seemed dedicated to the task, but it was fairly clear they were short of the money, manpower and resources to make a real impact. It seems there are only four council-run Youth Centres for the whole of the borough. It was admitted that the problems seem to be concentrated in certain parts of the borough.
The publicity for these meetings is not good enough, and the council know that. They keep changing the venue in order to try to pull in more of the public and (I suspect) to try to avoid the Residents' Associations setting the agenda. The latter is a forlorn hope on their part. We and the Apostles Residents' Association have made it clear what we want to talk about. The dates for the next two meetings are 31st October 2002 and 27th February 2003. The venues are yet to be decided, which hardly helps. The council contact for these meetings is Mike Udall (tel. 8545 3357).David J. Freeman