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

Chairman's Notes, July 2001

I suppose everybody who writes for a monthly journal has the same problem. A lot of whatever you write will be out of date by the time it is read. The only consolation is better late than not at all. I keep searching for some good news to relate, and perhaps the first item is just that - a bit of 'joined-up' local government!

A clean sweep for Merton

That was how the Wimbledon News reported Merton Council's new street cleansing schedule. The new system - said to have been introduced on 2nd April - should co-ordinate the cleansing and waste collection operations. The idea is that the weekly sweeping of residential streets will follow behind the refuse collection - not immediately behind but at least on the same day.

This should be a welcome improvement. We all know how easy it is to break the plastic bags we are obliged to use, and how the foxes tear them open. Like many good ideas, a pity it was not tried earlier. We are still urging the Council to collect coloured journals and the like and introduce recycling bins for other things like plastic containers and cardboard.

Schools re-organization

You may have seen articles in the local press (and there was also a letter from Mrs Harvey about this in the June Guide) about the difficulties involved in extending St John Fisher, Sacred Heart and Hatfield Schools to meet the Age of Transfer proposals. The main problem here is that these schools all sit within the flood plain as defined by the Environmental Agency (EA), and the policy of this Agency and the Department for the Environment is that, in general, further development within the flood plain should be avoided where it would add to the risk of flooding.

There is a very real dilemma here. On the one hand, nobody wants to add to the risk of flooding, however infrequent a possible occurrence may be. On the other hand, the change from a three- to a two-tier structure was approved by the Department for Education a year ago, and under the new structure the middle schools are due to disappear and the primary and secondary schools to be expanded. Finance apart, there should not be a problem where the schools due for enlargement are safely away from the flood plain, but in our area they are located in it. How does one solve this problem in a way which - hopefully - will satisfy everybody? There have been lots of meetings and much correspondence between the Council, the EA, the school planners, the Department for Education, the Diocese of Southwark and others. One can only hope that building designs can be achieved which, with adequate flood mitigation measures built in, will satisfy all the parties involved. A solution is desperately needed and soon. The Association earnestly hopes that a sensible and safe outcome can be achieved.

Tree Preservation Orders

In the July edition of the "Guide", you will find an article - kindly provided by John Haslam - on TPOs. I'm sure many of you will have seen a tree being cut down or lopped and wondered whether all was in order. We are very fortunate in having many mature and attractive trees in the locality, and many of these are worth preserving.

Having an order made out by the local Council, either on a single tree or a woodland, should provide protection. Once an Order is in place, no work should be undertaken on a tree unless an application - like a Planning Application - has been approved by the local authority. You can object to a TPO application just like any other application. However, remember that trees do have a natural life-span. If a protected tree is being cut down, it may be because it is diseased (though that may not be evident to the untrained eye) and has to be felled in the interests of safety, especially if it is in a public area. But it may be a healthy tree that some builder feels is in the way. So, if in doubt, take the precautionary approach and check with the Council.

Prince George's Playing Field and Wimbledon Football Club

It is difficult to keep up with the intentions of WFC and their interest in Prince George's, as the story seems to change every week. The club are still looking for a site to build a stadium and, I should point out, several other structures not directly connected with football. According to local press reports, they seem to expect the Council to find a site and provide "support", whatever that means. If the reports are correct, Mr Koppel, the Chairman of the club, was told by the Council that "if he can find a site and has the money to build it we (the Council) will certainly try to assist him." That seems to be a very reasonable response and all that anybody should expect of the Council. One report suggests that the Greyhound Stadium would be "the obvious suitable site".

Readers will recall that Prince George's has been "ruled out" for a stadium - see the Joint Statement in the April "Guide". The whole site is protected by Metropolitan Open Land status (the London equivalent of Green Belt) and is designated for outdoor sport and other recreation. The Merton Council Planning Framework (guidance to potential developers) on Prince George's, taken off the Agenda for the February Executive Council meeting, is still awaiting approval. We regard this as an important document, which would almost certainly have been approved in February but for the intervention of Mr Koppel. The document sets out the types of very limited development which can be permitted on MOL. I have asked the Head of Planning at the Council, once again, when this Framework paper will go back on the Agenda.

Defect report

What is that, you may ask? Sounds like a bit like a failed MOT certificate. Not quite. The Environmental Services Department of the Council has a green card called a Defect Report. I hope a copy of this will appear in the July edition of the "Guide". They are available from the Reception Desk at the Civic Centre, and can be handed in or posted (though you will need to use a stamp). So, if you have a complaint (don't all rush) like debris on the pavement or in the road, obstructing traffic, you could try the green card. You might be wondering : does the Council take any notice of them? Well to be fair, yes, at least in my limited experience. I have only tried it twice and it worked quickly both times.

And Finally - a quick round-up of other matters

Firstly, the Pinehouse (14-16 Coombe Lane). I mentioned last month that the Council had turned down the proposal to redevelop this site, and the applicant had made an appeal. We have heard that this has been allowed, so unless this is successfully challenged in the Courts the developer is free to go ahead. There is nothing to report on possible development of the two sports fields, Royal & Sun Alliance and LESSA, so the 'wait and see' game continues. We also wait to see what the Council proposes about the intended Controlled Parking Zone, but it looks as if that has been pushed right to the back of the backburner. The possible redevelopment of the Car Park/Thames Water site in Raynes Park is gathering some momentum, in that the Council paper for the Unitary Development Plan (a land use plan) Public Local Inquiry now shows this is a Site Proposal for 'New food store fronting Coombe Lane with public car parking and residential development'. It would be premature to say any more for the moment, since this has to be considered by the Inspector in the light of Objections made to the UDP and the Council response to those objections. More later.

David J. Freeman
Honorary Chairman, RP&WBRA