So, the old library has gone - and with rather alarming speed. Let us all hope that the new building goes up within the planned 15-18 month timetable. Having been used to a single-storey building for so long, the site will take on a very different "feel" when completed.
The temporary library arrangements continue to concern some people. The minutes of the Raynes Park and Lower Morden Area Forum meeting of 5th May record that the "taster" collections of books provided at Raynes Park station and the Tavern "are proving to be extremely popular". I cannot comment on the supply at the Tavern, but as far as the station is concerned, this is something of an understatement: the stock is vanishing rapidly. I was under the impression that the books were placed there to be borrowed on trust, but you are invited to keep them if you wish.
A representative of the library department at the council has agreed to the establishment of a panel for consultation on the provision for the new library and possibly also in respect of the internal layout of the library part of the ground floor. (A small part of the ground floor will be part of the sheltered housing complex.) This will be co-ordinated through a body known as the Raynes Park Association, which, in the main, is an amalgam of local residents' associations. The council is also considering the possibility of opening the new library to the public prior to the remainder of the building being completed. However, they point out, wisely, that this would only occur "if feasible and subject to health and safety requirements".
Two planning applications were submitted recently for a change of use of these premises. The first is for a change to restaurant/food and drink take-away, and the second for an amusement centre/arcade.
A number of people have expressed concern about both of these, particularly the latter. In planning-speak, the launderette is in what is termed a Core Shopping Frontage in a Local Centre, and is governed in the Unitary Development Plan by Policy S2. The primary purpose of shops in Local Centres - of which Raynes Park is one - is to provide ordinary retail services, rather than food and drink takeaway outlets. However, as we all know, there are quite a few of these fast-food shops already, and proposals for even more.
The planning guidance offers quite a lot of latitude on whether these types of application can be approved - a lot depends on the arguments for and against. However, there is more than a hint that amusement arcades are inappropriate in relatively small shopping centres like Raynes Park.
The launderette is right on the boundary of our own Association area, but very close to the Amity Grove Residents' Association area. I have had words with my contact in the Amity Grove RA and provided some guidance. I am sure they will submit objections to both applications. No explanatory detail or plans were provided with either application, which sometimes means they are speculative, i.e. mainly intended to enhance the sale value.
It all seems to be happening in Coombe Lane - well, possibly. Another application came up recently for a two-storey extension to the rear of these premises on the corner of Amity Grove. The proposal is for what is described as a commercial unit with a one-bedroom apartment on the upper floor. The drawings indicate that the intention is to use the ground floor as a sandwich bar with room for seating.
This application might have more serious intent than in the case of the launderette; even so, one is bound to wonder whether there is a market for this type of outlet. In principle, it does look like a practical use of what has become a vacant space. The inclusion of a first floor apartment gives the application some extra "brownie points". In the interests of increasing the supply of housing (without having to build anything), there is a general policy in Merton of encouraging residential use of upper floors above shops, rather than - as is so often the case - providing storage for the shop below.David Freeman