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

Chairman's Notes, June 2001

Raynes Park Library Redevelopment

I made a brief reference to this last month, and can now provide more details. Merton Council has been considering a possible redevelopment on this site for some years. The problem all along has been that the Council either could not, or would not, provide the money. What seems to have tipped the scales towards a possible solution is the marked increase in land and property prices in the area in recent years.

The proposal floated by the Council in 1999 was to offer the whole site, including the old toilet block and the former laundry building, to a developer for a mixed-use scheme. The developer would be given a long lease on the site, and would provide a replacement library/assembly hall complex at ground floor level with residential units above. The deal would be that, at no cost to the Council, the public would have an improved library, meeting hall, toilets and parking facilities etc., and the developer - having in effect been gifted the land - would recoup his costs by sale of the residential development. After a lengthy appraisal of the offers from several companies, one developer has now been selected and the Council has given approval in principle to the offer from Michael Shanly Homes. There will still need to be approval of a formal Planning Application. All the existing facilities would be replaced, and it is anticipated that on the upper floors there would be fourteen two-bedroom flats with allocated parking spaces. The new building would be located well to the north of the site.

A formal planning application has been submitted (No. 01/P0441), and it is possible this will be considered by the Planning Sub-Committee on 16th May.

The Association has monitored these proposals closely, and we sent some very detailed comments (including revised plans !) to the Council and the developer. In fact, we suggested a modified internal layout of the library/meeting hall design, and expressed concern about the size of the proposed new hall. Michael Shanly Homes have written to me saying they will consider our comments. My thanks go to Pamela Robinson for her work on this.

If all goes to plan, work on the new scheme could start in the autumn and last about one year. It would be wise not to take anything for granted, but the prospects look better than for many a long day.

Raynes Park Car Park

I also mentioned this briefly last month. Originally the Council had what is called a "Site Proposal" (which is not a Planning Application but just an idea for a possible development). This Proposal was for a "food store" on a part of the public car park. The Association objected to the potential loss of parking space. Some months later, Thames Water, who are the owner of the car park site, put in their own objection. The upshot of all this is that the "Site Proposal" now reads "Food store with public parking and residential development".

At this stage, we can only speculate on what might happen, but, in time, there may be a substantial redevelopment in this location. The point to note is that the new Proposal appears to suggest that Thames Water would be willing to release a large part of the whole site, including their own Leak Unit complex, for a development opportunity.

The original proposal was in effect flawed because the public car park covers what Thames Water call their "pipe track" (large water mains) and cannot be built over unless, I suppose, the structure was on stilts !

If the new Proposal gathers momentum, the Council are minded to draw up a Planning Framework (a guidance document for potential developers) and the Association will, I trust, be given the opportunity to comment on a draft of this. Whatever happens, we do not expect the existing capacity of the public car park to be reduced - quite the reverse in fact. Please don't expect anything to happen quickly. We will try to keep you informed.

Proposed Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ)

You may have been following progress if that is the word to use on this subject. The January "Guide" set out some details of the basic plan on which the Council mounted a consultation exercise. I have to tell you that this is one of the most vexatious issues that we have come across for a long time.

We all know about commuter parking, but there are other factors that bear on the problem. Most of the housing close to Raynes Park station was developed prior to 1919 when car ownership was a novelty. We are now in a situation where most of the owners of those houses have a car, and may have more than one. In these terraced roads, largely without garages, there is barely enough kerb space to meet residential needs. So there is a basic problem even without taking into account commuters and visitors. Despite this, many residents in the area tell me that, with some "give and take" all round, they can manage and do not want a CPZ.

The Council, however, has been petitioned by some residents, living close to the station, requesting some form of parking control. The Council therefore worked up a CPZ proposal responding to this request but, rather oddly, they included many areas well beyond the roads that do have a problem. Part of the logic for this was to cater for what we call the "knock-on" effect, i.e. commuter migration.

Our Association area includes only a small part of what was the originally proposed scheme. But, at our request, the Council added a "Fringe Zone" for consultation purposes, which included Fairway, Rectory Close and Church Walk, because we know there is commuter parking in these roads. To cut a long story short, the consultation exercise resulted in well over 60% of those who responded saying they did not want a Scheme. Within the overall figure, however, there were a handful of roads where the Council found majority support for the Scheme. The Council decided to drop the original proposal and consider a much smaller scheme and consult again on that proposal. The Council came up with the idea of forming a "Steering Group" made up of various people, including Residents' Associations, to draw up a new draft scheme. The idea was that this would form the basis of a new public consultation.

As I write (early May) it is unclear whether this new idea for the smaller scheme will go ahead, as the Council is still considering the issue. We should know by next month.

The Pinehouse, 14-16 Coombe Lane

Last September there was a planning application for a redevelopment on this site (between the butcher and the old Co-op) including a ground floor retail unit and six flats on three upper floors. The Council refused this application, and the applicant made an appeal. I attended an informal hearing for this at the Civic Centre on 1st May. The main issues from the Inspector were questions about the absence of any scope to provide on-site residential parking (in an already congested location), the possible effect on the free flow of traffic in Coombe Lane remembering it is a bus route, and difficulty of access during construction.

The Association generally supported some form of development, but we were critical about the proposed façade (not in sympathy with the local area) and concerned being realistic about more cars being parked in local roads. The applicant told me that, whatever happens, he intended to keep the retail unit as the Pinehouse. We await the decision. It could go either way.

Planning Applications

The Association receives from the Council a weekly list of planning applications, which we try to monitor carefully. In general, we would only expect to respond to those which are likely to affect a large number of people. We would not normally object to applications for rear roof extensions and the like, but such applications might affect YOU. So watch out for those yellow notices. They are not always easy to spot, and may be low down on a garden fence or tied to a lamp-post. Each planning application is allocated to a "Case Officer" in the Council Planning Department. If you want to make an objection, these people are generally very helpful in providing guidance on whether you have grounds for objection. The public can also attend meetings of the Planning Applications Sub-Committee, and, with prior approval, may speak in support of an objection, though you will need to exercise economy of language. The Case Officers are also able to provide advice on whether you need planning approval for an extension or conservatory, etc. But a word of warning : don't bother them unless you have fairly clear ideas on what you want to do and know the measurements for whatever you have in mind. There is always at least one Case Officer on duty Monday to Friday.

Flooding

This is not news of flooding, I'm pleased to say, but a request. We have mentioned the 1981 flooding several times recently. Many people can remember it but we would like to know EXACTLY what caused it. Yes, I know it was too much water, but what actually happened to cause the problem ? Was it a blockage somewhere? A local newspaper, dated 14th August 1981, recorded the event. If anybody out there has the details please phone either Martin Mitchell or me telephone numbers in the Guide.

A Message to Road Stewards

Firstly, thank you for all you do. The Association could not function effectively without this army of worthy citizens. But, just like schoolboys with their homework, there is room for improvement ! We need a greater effort please. There seems to be some imbalance between the number of Guides we deliver and the number of paid-up members. If people move away, or leave us for all time, please do try to recruit the new resident and ask for their subscription at the same time. Thank you.

Prince George's Playing Field

Nothing to report, which is precisely the problem. I am still waiting to hear when the Planning Framework will be approved. This document was "pulled" just before a Council meeting in February. This is an important issue, and we do not intend to give up on it. I am just hearing the news that Wimbledon Football Club are in merger talks with Q.P.R. By the time you read this, we may know the outcome.

And Finally

It does surprise me that there is so little comment from most of our members about what we do or, perhaps, don't do. Do you have views on this ? What do you feel we should be doing if we are not time permitting ? Should we extend our reach outside our own Association area (see the map on page 19 of the March Guide) ? Bear in mind that we do so, in part, because not all the areas have a Residents' Association, or if they do they may be very small perhaps just one road with limited resources. We cover a lot of ground and therefore feel a broad agenda is appropriate.

Please send me your views on this subject. I may not have time to reply with apologies but will put your letter to the committee.

I will try not to talk much about the weather but let us all hope for a bit more sunshine and less rain.

Next meeting

Please note that the next meeting will be on 12th June 2001, not 5th June as stated on the front cover of the May "Guide", and will start at 8 p.m.

David J. Freeman
Honorary Chairman, RP&WBRA