Merton Council has released revised proposals which came to me too late for inclusion in the October "Guide". The idea now is to combine the two earlier options for the junction of Cannon Hill Lane and Grand Drive. In short, there would be traffic lights and a raised table (the square formed by the union of the two roads would be raised to the same level as the pavement). This would provide full pedestrian crossing facilities at each "arm" of the junction. The existing zebra crossing outside St. John Fisher school would no longer be necessary. The pelican crossings in front of Wimbledon College and the shops close to the Beverley roundabout would also have a raised table. The council has decided against the introduction of parking bays in the stretch from Cannon Hill Lane to Wimbledon College.
Regarding the contentious idea of the gated closure at the top end of little Queen Mary Avenue : rather as I suspected, this has been put in suspense. The council would monitor the impact of the main proposals and consider if and when "suitable treatment" was necessary, i.e. if the feared "rat-run" became too much of a nuisance.
There remain some features of the proposals which are unpopular with some people, particularly buildouts at bus-stops and elsewhere. In the main, these are intended to deter parking at these locations. It seems that parking at the bus-stops is a regular occurrence, particularly at school opening and closing times. The wider (1.5m) buildout, combined with a pelican crossing in front of the shops near the Beverley roundabout, is designed partly to prevent parking nearby, and partly to reduce the distance involved for pedestrians crossing at that point. With an island in the middle of the crossing, the outcome would be to restrict vehicles to a single stream in each direction - a safety feature in itself.
We have all seen a significant growth in traffic using Grand Drive over recent years, no doubt in part because more and more people discover it is a convenient link between Morden/Sutton and Wimbledon/Kingston, and not least a route which avoide waiting at railway level-crossings. Some accident remedial measures are clearly necessary, and that is precisely what this package aims to achieve.
One regret I have - speaking personally - is that the scheme appears to do little to make life safer for cyclists, and in some ways could make them more vulnerable. I am thinking of instances where a vehicle is about to overtake a cyclist just as they are both alongside an island in the road or a buildout. Even the best of cyclists wobble a bit or fall off now and again. Patient drivers will hold back from these situations until there is clear road ahead. It is no wonder that so many cyclists use the pavement much of the time. Indeed, there is a case for allowing them to do so on main roads and primary routes.
This package was submitted to and approved by the Merton Council (all-party) Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 15th October, and will now go forward to the Merton Cabinet for final approval. Having gone this far, it would be unusual, though not impossible, for any significant changes to emerge. Time will tell.
The long-awaited extension of the Recycling from Home Scheme is being "rolled out" across the borough, and should reach all areas by March 2004. In addition to the existing green box - currently for paper only - there will be a new purple box. There will be guidance leaflets from the council about this in due course, but the basic idea is that the green box will be for paper and glass, and the purple box for cans, cardboard and plastic bottles.
The underlying principle behind all this is to reduce the weight and volume of rubbish taken to landfill sites. I am informed that Londoners produce 3.4 million tonnes of rubbish each year. To give you some indication of what that means, it would be enough to fill Canary Wharf Tower every ten days. The problem is getting worse as we buy more packaged and disposable goods. Most of London's rubbish is disposed of by burying it in landfill sites, where space is fast running out and the costs are escalating. We all need to recycle more.
I have no doubt there will be many comments and complaints about this scheme, and let us hope lessons will be learned and improvements made as experience is gained. For the moment, let me outline some of the tips which I think you will be given. When the two boxes become available, the green box should contain only glass bottles and jars, with the tops removed (but no broken glass), along with clean paper and newspapers. Any paper which is colour-impregnated should not be included. The purple box will be for cardboard, like cereal packets (but not corrugated cardboard), tins and aluminium cans, and plastic bottles with the tops removed.
In order to make the scheme workable - by trying to limit the volume being collected - you will be requested to flatten boxes, and crush cans and plastic bottles. Flattening cereal packets is easy enough, and crushing plastic bottles not too difficult, but crushing tin cans ...? I have used a professionally-made can-crushing device, but they are hardly the sort of thing to be found in the average household, and even if you had one they require very careful handling. I would rather not comment further until we have seen the actual council guidance leaflet which, I understand, will be issued with the new box. The guidance will need to be clear and persuasive.
Those of you who are familiar with the playing fields in Morden Park - currently on a long lease to the London Playing Fields Society from Merton Council - will know what a sad sight they present. All of the changing-rooms are devoid of glass, and mostly burnt-out. Very little activity seems to take place on the fields themselves.
A proposal is being worked up to develop a sports complex on this site. My understanding is that a planning application is expected in the near future. The centrepiece of the proposal is a golf driving range, including 50 driving bays on two levels, along with an assortment of football pitches ranging from full-size to those for mini-soccer, and also an archery range.
Fortunately, the Morden Park and Playing Fields Association have been monitoring these possible developments, and have held meetings to alert local residents to the details of the scheme as far as they are known. The whole of Morden Park is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (the London version of Green Belt), and as such there are rather strict guidelines as to what can and cannot be built on such land. Local residents are, quite rightly, concerned about possible over-development, the impact of floodlighting, noise and potential parking problems. A lot may change before an actual application is submitted, of course, but from the basic details I have seen, it looks as if the scale and extent of the proposed new building is some way beyond what should be permissible on land which has the degree of protection afforded to this site under Merton's Unitary Development Plan.
More than two years ago, permission was granted for a four-storey development on this site, providing for twelve flats above an open-plan ground floor for food and drink use. The presumption is that J.D. Wetherspoon intend to use the ground floor as a pub.
Following demolition of the old building, nothing further seemed to be happening. However, we have now been informed that the applicant has submitted revised plans. The main impact of the change is that the length - or what you might call the depth - of the ground floor of the building would be reduced by 3.5m, and the size and layout of the flats would change. Although still twelve flats all told, nine of these would be two-bed versions, and the other three would be studios.
There are a number of other relatively minor changes, mainly to windows and balconies, and the basement will not be used for car-parking, but - according to the revised description - there would be six car spaces for the residents of the flats at the rear of the site. Although not evident from Coombe Lane, the site does have rear access.
Responding to an invitation, we have submitted a number of comments to the Planning Department. My thanks go to Pamela Robinson for her help with this. Perhaps I should have explained that the Planning Department judged that the nature of the revisions did not amount to the need for a new planning application. Roll on opening time.David Freeman