Something may appear in the local press about this before you read these notes. A planning application was due to be considered on 19th September. However, the day before the meeting, I heard from Michael Shanly Homes (MSH) that they had withdrawn their application. The precise reasons are obscure, but seem to be connected with contractual arrangements between MSH and the Council. This is a very frustrating turn of events for all concerned. There would now seem to be three possibilities. Negotiations with MSH might be resumed, and the application might come back to Committee. This would bring us back on track, but I have to tell you that the prospects do not look encouraging. Secondly, the Council could start negotiations with one or more of the other short-listed potential developers. This would be the logical follow-up, but there would inevitably be a lengthy delay. Or the Council could drop the proposal for a replacement building. Whatever happens in the short- to medium-term, the Unitary Development Plan still has a 'Site Proposal' for a redevelopment, and a planning brief for the site remains in place. So some form of redevelopment is always a possibility. We will try to keep you informed. On behalf of the Association, I should like to thank Stephen Mellor, Director of Planning at Michael Shanly Homes, for his co-operation. He wrote to thank us for what he described as "our constructive dialogue over this matter". My thanks also to Pamela Robinson for a lot of work on this topic.
Back in May this year, the owner of the Pinehouse won an appeal to allow him to redevelop this site. The intention then was to replace the existing shop and construct six two-bedroom flats above. To our surprise, a new planning application has been submitted for the same site. This time, the applicant wants to provide a restaurant on the ground floor and basement level, together with three two-bedroom and three one-bedroom flats above. There is no indication from the drawings what type of restaurant is intended, and I imagine that this aspect of the proposal will evoke a mixture of feelings. The Association made a number of comments on the original application, and we will do so again this time.
In July this year, a planning application to redevelop the old Co-op site next door was approved. This was in respect of a 'Food and Drink' unit at ground floor level, with twelve one-bedroom flats above. Don't count any chickens, but one end of Coombe Lane might offer a rather different social scene in a few years time.
The main extensions for St John Fisher and Sacred Heart Schools were approved on 19th September. The Association made qualified 'technical' objections in both cases, not, I wish to stress, in expectation of seeing the applications rejected, but in order to plead for better flood mitigation and compensation works to be incorporated into the designs. Both schools are unfortunately within the Beverley Brook floodplain, and the architects have included some measures to counter the possible consequences of flooding. We felt that these safety measures could be improved without adding greatly to the costs. The Environment Agency also objected to the applications, but left the door open for the Council to approve subject to a number of proposals, which they had outlined, being incorporated into the schemes. In the interests of the safety of the children and teachers and the peace of mind of parents, as well as those living close to and 'downstream' of the schools, we trust the Council will co-operate fully with the Environment Agency in drawing up final plans.
Will this story ever end ?
On the 13th/14th September, the local press reported that Charles Koppel, the Chairman of WFC, had written to the Leader of the Council, Andrew Judge, saying that he (the Chairman) wanted to apply for planning permission to build a stadium on Prince George's. Andrew Judge quickly slapped down this suggestion, pointing out that the whole site is protected by its Metropolitan Open Land status. A stadium would be highly inappropriate development under UDP Policy. Of course, Mr Koppel is well aware of this, but in his seemingly isolated position is resorting to desperate tactics. Only last March the Club, our own MP and the Council, among others, issued a statement which "ruled out" Prince George's as a possible site for a stadium. Andrew Judge was kind enough to send a personal message to the Association, which was reproduced in the October edition of the Guide.
We continue to watch and wait to see how this evolves. Meanwhile, I am left still trying to understand why Wimbledon Football Club ever decided to sell off the Plough Lane site without having another home ground to move into. I am just puzzled, but the keen supporters of the Club must feel that they have been very badly let down by past deeds.
And last but certainly not least…
I am hearing 'rumblings' of discontent from out there in West Barnes. One of our younger members (I hope he is a member) thinks we need to "get real, get relevant, and make a new impact". He also feels that the Guide needs a facelift and is not keen on the "pseudo-rural" image and the signpost on the front cover.Well, I agree with quite a lot of what this discontented fellow says, but - and this is where we get down to the core of the problem - if we are going to "get real" and "get relevant" we need contributions from people like him in their thirties, or younger. Perhaps I should point out that apart from the very important tasks of distributing the Guide and collecting subs, the Association is run, in the main, by no more than five or six people. They are all very busy individuals - including a full-time working mother - and they have many commitments apart from the Association. They devote a lot of their time to what they feel is a worthy cause. They are not asking for thanks, but they would greatly appreciate more support. I have sat on many committees, and it is inevitable that a large proportion of the members of these will be 'elderly active' people. They tend to have more free time than most. But in case there is any doubt about this, let me make it clear we would dearly like to bring in - in an active way - some more younger people. We need a Membership Secretary at the moment (of any age), which need not be a demanding task if you are well organised and have a computer. We would welcome a broader presentation of material for the Guide, and perhaps a few light-hearted items now and again. I have invited people to write or email with their thoughts or contributions, but the response has been very poor. My personal view, for what it is worth, is that the prime purpose of the Guide is to be informative not entertaining ; to tell you about things which you might not hear about or read through any other medium. And there is another important role we try to perform, namely that of 'watchdog', e.g. on planning applications etc.
So come on, 'Discontented, West Barnes', give us some of your time. Set an example to your younger friends and put your energy where your words are.David J. Freeman