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Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents' Association
Serving the community since 1928

Association News, April 2003

Royal and Sun Alliance sportsfield

Merton Council is still considering the planning application from Bryant Homes Ltd. for a residential development on this site. Last month I outlined some of the issues which the Planning Department will be looking at, but forgot to mention one or two details.

In addition to assessing the application against the Unitary Development Plan (which is in the process of review), there is a requirement by Merton to take into consideration key Government documents, called Planning Policy Guidance Notes, which come out of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. One of these, PPG17 - "Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation", published in July last year, is highly relevant to this application. You will know from earlier editions of the "Guide" that Merton Council is currently undertaking a review of all sports and playing fields in the borough in order to determine whether any are surplus to requirements for sporting or leisure use. The preliminary work on this was carried out by planning consultants W.S. Atkins on behalf of the council. This is now being taken forward by an "in-house" council exercise to produce a Merton Open Space Strategy (MOSS for short), but this has not yet been completed - indeed, the draft of the strategy has yet to be submitted for public consultation.

Against this background, it might be worthwhile if I quote from part of PPG17 -

"Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land should not be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space or the buildings and land to be surplus to requirements. For open space, 'surplus to requirements' should include consideration of all the functions that open space can perform."
Paragraph 10 of the Note goes on to say :
"In the absence of a robust and up-to-date assessment by a local authority (in this case Merton Council), an applicant for planning permission may seek to demonstrate through an independent assessment that the land and buildings are surplus to requirements. Developers will need to consult the local community and demonstrate that their proposals are widely supported by them."

So we are in a situation where the local authority has not completed a "robust assessment of need", which means there is a clear requirement on the applicant to carry out their own assessment. The planning application itself does not include anything which could adequately be described as "an independent assessment". We wait to see it. The second aspect of the requirement on the applicant - to consult the local community and produce the evidence that their proposals are widely supported - is, so far, conspicuous by its absence, to the best of my knowledge. If anybody in "the local community" reading this has been consulted, we would be interested to know.

There is some scope, under PPG17, for certain types of development on playing fields in advance of an assessment of needs. However, none of the four conditions listed in paragraph 15 of the PPG which (putting other considerations to the side for the present) could enable development to take place in the current circumstances is met by the applicant. One of these conditions is that "the proposed development only affects land which is incapable of forming a playing pitch (or part of one)". The applicant has claimed that this condition is met by the proposals submitted. We do not believe this is a credible argument : the parcel of land envisaged for the housing development could certainly form part of a playing pitch, or alternatively a complete small-scale five-a-side pitch. As yet, the applicant appears to have failed to meet the requirements of PPG17.

I also mentioned last month that we had learned about revised maps of floodplain which, on the face of it, should rule out the possibility of residential development on a large part of the northern end of the field. At the time of writing there is some confusion about the accuracy or interpretation of these maps. We are trying to unravel this puzzle.

Wimbledon College Campion Centre, Grand Drive

Merton is still considering the application for 69 flats on this site. In theory, at least, there is no great urgency in this case, since nothing could happen here until the latter part of 2005 at the very earliest. The views of the Environment Agency will be an important aspect of how the council deals with this application. However, whatever views the Agency has (they are not clear at present), the Association is in no doubt that any type of residential development at this location would be in clear conflict with both local and national planning policies.

I will spare you the full details of the reason why, but given what we know about

it is, to put it mildly, difficult to believe that a plausible argument could be made to justify the use of this site for general purpose housing of any kind either now or in the foreseeable future. We are watching this application with interest.

Raynes Park Library re-development

You will see elsewhere on this site a report from Tim Miles following on from what we learned at the Raynes Park and Lower Morden Area Forum meeting on 27th February. It was expected that the application from McCarthy and Stone would be put to the Planning Committee on 13th March, but this was taken off the agenda at the request of the applicant. As I understand it, this does not mean that the application has been withdrawn ; it might suggest that it will be revised in some way. Let us all hope - after waiting so long - that we will see a new library one day. Patience is needed, don't we know !

David J. Freeman