My understanding is that a contract has been signed between Merton Council and McCarthy and Stone to go ahead with the re-building of the existing structure in Approach Road. Delivery of the free local paper, the Guardian, is patchy, I know, but some of you may have seen the front page article of the 30th December edition about a letter to the newspaper signed by several people, but initiated by Barbara Bampton, a former councillor for the Dundonald ward in which the library is situated. The letter itself was not printed in the Guardian, but it outlined our concern about the provision of library services in Raynes Park during the period of re-building, expected to take about eighteen months.
The signatories are asking people to become Friends of Raynes Park Library, with the aim of pressing the council to provide a credible temporary library service in suitable accommodation close to the centre of Raynes Park. We do not believe that the proposals being suggested amount to satisfactory arrangements, in particular the idea of housing the stock of paperbacks at Raynes Park station. Clearly, this is no way to run a library service even on a temporary basis, and we the people deserve something far better than that. There are vacant shops, sites and hall facilities in Raynes Park which could - given a bit of effort and imagination - be made available for a temporary period.
You may feel that it is rather late in the day to start a Friends group, and in an ideal world (if you know where it is, please let me know), we would have this group up and running already.
It is not too late, for several reasons, but I will offer you just one. Not only is it necessary to press the council about suitable temporary facilities, there remains the issue of ensuring that the new building is adequately stocked and equipped. Many of you will know that a book sale has been running at the library for several weeks. We want to be sure that new stock will be provided in due course, and that the existing computers - and the new terminals we have been promised - will be re-installed when the new building is opened.
As a regular user of the library, I am greatly encouraged when I see young children searching for books in their own section of the library and sometimes being helped to read by library staff. It would be a sad reflection on our council if they were unwilling to continue such a valuable service to the rising generation.
If you would like to support the Friends, please write to Peter Fischer (who is the chairman of the Apostles Residents' Association) at 83, Bronson Road, Raynes Park, SW20 8DZ (telephone 020-8543 0790).David Freeman
Following the Association's success in persuading the inspector not to grant planning permission on the LESSA site in the autumn, we were approached by a communications agency on behalf of the owners and developers. They are called Green Issues Communication, and their remit is to liaise between local communities and land owners to see if some common ground can be found.
Four of us agreed to meet with two members of the agency in October, entirely without prejudice but not off the record, to see if there was any way forward. We were disappointed to learn that at the moment, the developers and owners are intent on keeping the site simply as a land bank, in the hope that they might be able to get planning permission for housing at some time in the future. We were told that they were prepared to wait for twenty years if necessary.
This is depressing, since it opens up the clear probability that the site will quickly go to rack and ruin, the grass left uncut and unkempt, and the pavilion a prey to vandals and arsonists. They are, however, keen to meet with us again, and are willing to refer our concerns to their principals. We will keep a line of communication open with them in case we can use it to our advantage.
We intend to have a meeting as soon as possible with Merton's chief planning officer to make sure his department is fully aware of our proposals for the site, so that any future application is considered from the outset with reference to the inspector's report and our views as local residents. We can see potential interest in the site not only from sports clubs, who need access to the fields, but also schools. Rest assured that if there is a real possibility of something happening on the site, the Association will not commit residents to any particular point of view before we have conducted the fullest consultation with those affected.
The Association contributed over £500 as a special gift towards the planting of new trees to form a screen on Cannon Hill Common, matching the funding both of the Friends of Cannon Hill Common and Merton Council. The trees were planted on two successive weekends in the most appalling weather, with driving wind and rain, yet a good number of residents turned out to do the heavy manual labour of digging holes and planting. Our admiration and thanks goes out to them.John Elvidge