Better known to most people as Bellinger and Price – as it was. Sadly, this specialist interior decorator shop closed last year. Last September, the owner submitted an application to change the use of the shop from retail to Food and Drink, together with some residential development to the rear of the property. The residential part of the application was subsequently withdrawn possibly because – in the confined space available – it may not have been viable.
Last December, the Council's Planning Committee approved the change of use to Food and Drink. The plans suggest that there might be a 40-seater restaurant, and the scheme also provides some basement facilities. No precise details are available as to the type of restaurant proposed, but the applicant's agent thought the main use would be lunch-time rather than evening. There were some objections to the application, mainly concerned with potential disturbance to neighbours and fears about anti-social behaviour in the evenings. However, the committee felt that a food and drink establishment at this location need not result in adverse impact on local residents, provided certain conditions were imposed, as they were. There will be no take-away and/or delivery services, and there will be controls on hours of use and noise levels. It is worth mentioning that this may be a speculative application with a view to enhancing the sale value of the premises. Approval of a planning application does not mean that the development is inevitable.
One of our members recently asked about street and pavement sweeping, having noticed that, at one location, the chaps were sweeping the street but not the pavement. Mr Malik, Head of Amenity Services at the Council, tells me that the sweepers are required to sweep the pavements from the building line up to the gulley as well as the street itself. All of this now happens on a weekly basis instead of fortnightly, so everywhere should be cleaner, but of course a lot depends on how diligently the task is performed. It must be very difficult, if not almost impossible in some roads, to clean the streets effectively with so many cars parked all day. I was in Milton Keynes (no, I was not looking for a stadium site for Wimbledon Football Club) and noticed that the streets are remarkably clean. Part of the answer must be that everybody up there seems to have an off-road parking space.
I have asked Mr Malik what plans the Council has to extend the scope for recycling. I know this is not the most attractive of subjects, but it is becoming more and more important. As a result of an EU Directive, Councils have been set a target to reduce household waste by 25%, based on 1995 levels, by the year 2010. This would be a huge reduction, and is clearly a very demanding task. . A whole range of ideas are being considered, including the collection of plastic and bottles directly from households and possibly the use of wheelie bins. All these ideas, however, are expensive, and less simple than you might think. One possibility being examined is for households to put out recyclable waste alongside ordinary waste, but in clearly identified coloured bags. All these bags would be collected at the same time, and separated out at the depot. Sounds like a good idea in principle, but would it be workable ? Another idea is for a trial weekly collection, in part of the Borough, of green garden waste. We hope all these ideas will be pursued with vigour. More cost-effective recycling appears to be essential.
The first four meetings of the Council-run Area Forums were held last November, with a mixed response across the Borough. Some of the meetings were not well-attended, possibly due to the publicity being at rather short notice. For the Raynes Park and Lower Morden meeting, graffiti, recycling, crime and safety issues dominated the agenda. At the Morden area meeting, we learned that there were 278 police officers currently in Merton out of an establishment of 303. The Borough appears to have lost officers in recent years under a formula whereby officers have been moved to higher crime areas. In other words (so it is claimed), because Merton has been successful in fighting crime, police numbers were reduced. However, the formula has been changed, and Merton has been given permission to increase the establishment figure. Potential officers do have to be recruited and trained. There is still a significant proportion of the Borough's police on extra security duty in central London, though much less than in the weeks immediately following September 11th.
In our own Forum area, suggested issues for future meetings include Raynes Park Library (on which I have no further news at present), crime prevention in the Raynes Park area, the use and retention of open spaces, tree planting and tree warden schemes and improvement of cycle routes.
A letter from the Council says that they do not want these meetings to be just 'talking shops'. Neither do we ! There will certainly be plenty to talk about, but we will be looking for action and, in particular, value for money from the Council Tax. The next meeting is scheduled for February 28th.
Just before Christmas, we were told that Merton Council had appointed a firm of Planning Consultants, W.S. Atkins, to carry out a study of the Borough's parks and open spaces. The remit for the consultants is wide-ranging, but essentially the purpose is to assess whether the needs of local residents are being met, to identify which open spaces need more investment, and to consider whether any particular area could be used for purposes other than outdoor sport and recreation.
The Association welcomes this study, though we are puzzled by the timing. An assessment of this kind would have been valuable and timely during the early months of 1999, when the Council was consulting the public on the revision of the Unitary Development Plan (a land use plan). To mount the study now – with the Council having completed both first and second draft revisions of the UDP and after the Public Inquiry has been completed – seems very odd. Perhaps I should point out that the study has been commissioned by Merton's Education, Leisure and Libraries Department, whereas it is the Environmental Services Department which deals with the UDP and planning applications which might be for development on sportsfields and open spaces. One wonders whether there has been adequate liaison between these two departments.
We still wait to hear when the housing application on the LESSA site will go to Committee. However, since we expect this to be on the agenda for the meeting on 21st February and the report on the Open Spaces study is expected to be published this month, I have asked Merton Council to defer consideration of the LESSA planning application until we have all had the opportunity to consider W S Atkins' findings. Following an invitation, we have submitted comments to the consultants, and in doing so have urged that due account is taken of the report of the Green Spaces Investigative Committee (of the Greater London Authority) who visited Raynes Park in July last year. I commented on this visit in the August 2001 edition of the Guide. The GSIC Report is lengthy and contains many recommendations :
The financial year of the Association runs from 1st March to the end of February, so subscriptions of £2.50, for the 'year' 2001/2002, should all be collected by the end of this month. I know it can be difficult to collect all of these subs. Some people never seem to be at home! We have issued Road Stewards with 'Friendly Reminder' cards to drop through letter-boxes when they have not been able to find anybody at home. If you live fairly close to your Road Steward, it would be greatly appreciated if you could let them have the subscription – preferably in cash – as soon as it is convenient. The sub is still very reasonable, and is kept in check by all the advertising space that Wendy Hunt manages to achieve. I know of two other Residents' groups in the area whose sub is £3 and £5, and their Newsletter is quarterly not monthly.
May I take this opportunity, once again, to thank all the Road Stewards and Area Co-ordinators, and Malcolm Day, for their contribution, as well as our Treasurer, John Cock, who beavers away in the background never seeking the limelight. We could not function without all of you.David J. Freeman