You may have seen in the local press, in early February, an announcement about proposals for a new B&Q Superstore near the Shannon Corner roundabout. The planning application is now with Merton Council. If approved, the new structure would be located on the site curently occupied by MFI, Homebase, Allied Carpets, Harris Carpets, the Paul Simon curtain store and a small brick building once part of Racal. The main building, which would be a two-storey structure, would certainly be very large, and includes plans for underground parking for 220 cars as well as 200 car spaces at ground level. To give you some idea of the size of the store, the existing gross floor space of the present buildings is about 8,800 square metres, whilst for the new building the figure would be a little over 11,500 square metres. The plan would be to site the main structure well to the north of the site, and therefore set back from the Burlington Road and A3 slip road, with a garden centre in the space (currently, I think, car parking) between the main building and the gardens of the houses in Rookwood Avenue.
The site for the store is, of course, in the borough of Merton, but is very close to the Merton/Kingston boundary, and I would imagine that the borough of Kingston will have views on the proposal. Some concern has already been expressed about the volume of traffic likely to be generated, bearing in mind that a total of 425 car parking spaces is envisaged. The Wimbledon News reported the fears of local residents for the safety of children travelling to Burlington Infants' and Junior Schools, just over the border in Kingston. The planning application does, in fact, contain a very detailed Traffic Impact Assessment, which no doubt will address road safety issues. On an application of this size, and in particular in view of the location, there are many issues to be considered, and there will probably be a lengthy consultation phase. The proposal is of interest to this Association, since the site falls within the West Barnes ward of Merton, but as yet we have not formulated a view on it.
The Raynes Park Interchange improvements were due to be completed by the end of March on a revised work schedule. As it is rather a long time since the proposals were first consulted on and approved, I will spell out the main details. The scheme was to include pedestrianization and paving of the areas outside Raynes Park station, refurbishment of the Cattle Arch, a new pedestrian crossing in Coombe Lane, a cycle route through the Cattle Arch, relocation of the westbound bus-stop outside the station, introduction of an offside bus lane in Pepys Road and modification and signalization of the Lambton Road/Coombe Lane junction. The main purpose of relocating the bus-stop outside the station was to avoid the tail-back of traffic which tends to build up when a bus is waiting at the stop. So, in theory, the movement of traffic through the shopping parade should be improved. I am sure there will be critics of the new arrangements, and many will not be happy about cyclists being permitted to use the Cattle Arch. I hope cyclists will negotiate the Arch with care and consideration.
The second of "our" area forums took place on 28 February at St. John Fisher school. There was a huge turnout, with no fewer than ten councillors present, including Iain Dysart in the chair, and at least ten members of our Association. We were given a presentation on the results of the Local Area Survey for both the West Barnes and Cannon Hill wards. We were told that the main concerns in both wards were graffiti, litter, traffic congestion, dog fouling, youth crime and policing - or lack of it. We were also given some statistics on what were deemed to be the levels of satisfaction with local council services. Many of those who attended the meeting found the figures less than entirely convincing. The findings of a survey cannot be any better than the quality of the questions asked and the format of the questionnaire, which is perhaps where this exercise may be faulty. The jury is still out on whether these forums will achieve their objective, but it is still early days. More time is needed before delivering a verdict.
At the Area Forum meeting, a little more light was thrown on the background to this study by planning consultants W.S. Atkins. Council officials said the prime motivation was to ensure that land was used efficiently, which sounds encouraging, but leaves open the question : efficiently for whom ? If an open space - originally designed for outdoor sport or general recreation - is shown to be little used for those purposes, there will be some who are likely to argue that they can be used more "efficiently" for some other purpose well-removed from sport or recreation. The report should have been completed by now, and we were assured that it would be available for consultation. We will need to watch this with care.
We learn from Merton's Planning Department that Barratt Homes are intending to submit revised plans for this application. No details are available at present. This will delay consideration of the application, and we understand that there will be a further round of consultation. It is now unlikely that this will go to the Planning Committee before 20 June, possibly even later.
We are in discussion with our affiliated societies about the possibility of some sort of event, probably in the Tennis Club pavilion over the long bank holiday week-end, most likely on Monday 3 June. Ideas and volunteers would be very welcome.David J. Freeman