We have had a very useful discussion with Merton's Chief Planning Officer about the LESSA site, the RSA site, and other current planning issues. We thank Councillor Gilli Lewis-Lavender for arranging this and taking part.
We are all awaiting the results of the Merton Open Spaces Strategy review, which is designed to consider the sporting and recreation areas we have in Merton and the extent to which they are used both by Merton residents and by people coming into the area from other parts of south-west London. As an Association, we strongly feel that these areas are vital to our residents, and that there is still a strong demand for open space from sports clubs and schools.
The MOS strategy is going out for consultation in the spring, and it is due to be approved in the late summer. We hope that it will reinforce the need to protect the LESSA and RSA sites from development and retain extant sports provisions on these sites.
Meanwhile, the planning application on the RSA site has been refused under delegated authority, presumably in the light of the decision of the Inspector after the public enquiry on the LESSA site.
The council is re-drafting the parts of the borough plan that deal with private recreational open space, and we hope that these will now be made more restrictive.
As reported in the last issue of the "Guide", we have met with a firm called Green Issues Communication, which has been retained by Barratt and EdF, the current owners, to consult with local residents on the future use of the site.
Although they say that the owners do not intend another planning application at the moment, they have instructed architects to draw up a revised scheme which, they say, will be much more in keeping with the area. We think that a further meeting with them would be premature until the MOS strategy report is agreed. We have offered to host a public meeting for them in the autumn at which the owners and architects can present any revised plans they have.If such a meeting takes place we will, of course, advertise it widely at the time.
Our stance, as an Association, remains that we want to keep the whole site for outside sporting purposes, and we believe that we are supported in this view by the Inspector. We also think that there is a demand for this. Various sports clubs have made enquiries about taking over the site, but they have been rebuffed.
The future of this site is also still open to doubt. We think that it should be retained for educational purposes, and that there will be widespread interest from schools. Although the site has been designated for housing in the UDP, in practice this will be difficult to achieve, owing to technical planning issues and the fact that the whole site is on a flood-plain which is increasingly likely to be needed as such.
In late summer 2003, the owner of the land behind 274-324 Cannon Hill Lane scrubbed out a lovely area of woodland which acted as a local nature reserve. The land is now bare and covered in spoil and rubble. It was a total desecration. Among the woodland were a number of trees protected by tree preservation orders, and it is of course an offence to interfere with any such trees.
We understand that the council intends shortly to prosecute the owner for his alleged interference with these trees, and that the residents of the houses behind which the trees stood will be asked to give evidence. Whatever the result of the prosecution, this land is, in our view, extremely unlikely to receive any kind of planning permission, as it lies completely behind other houses.
The library is shortly to close, and will not re-open for another eighteen months. What is proposed in the meantime is nothing short of scandalous. The council has been considering the closure of the library for years, and yet has made no provision for a temporary replacement or even a mobile library.
Instead, the library's contents are going to be left for anyone to take away in the station, a local pub, and the Methodist church. No-one will know where to go for what. The Apostles Residents' Association, in whose area the library is situated, have taken the lead in forming a Friends of the Library group, and a petition protesting at the lack of provision is being circulated for presentation to the council.John Elvidge
Some welcome news. In January 2003, Bryant Homes Ltd submitted an outline planning application to build sixty-nine homes on this site, which has been unused for several years. We learned recently that the application has been refused. In fact, it has been clear for several months that this would be done, but complications delayed the decision. The exact reasons for the refusal are unknown to me at the moment, but they almost certainly have parallels with the result of the LESSA sports field appeal, which was also refused.
A particular problem which the applicant for this scheme came up against was that in July 2002 the government issued a revised Planning Policy Guidance Note which - under certain circumstances - should provide much stronger protection of sportsfields than hitherto. Once this revised Guidance Note was published, there was little chance of this application - or any other of similar content - being approved. The applicant has a limited period during which they can appeal, but given what we know, I consider it unlikely.
To those residents living around the field: please remember that it is unrealistic to assume that it will remain entirely vacant and unused forever.
The council approved an application for floodlighting the courts in May last year, and they have now informed us about some amendments. The key changes are to remove floodlights from court 3 (the one alongside the clubhouse) and a reduction in the number of columns from fifteen to nine. The height of the columns will remain as before, but since there will be fewer of them the amount of light spillage will be reduced.
When this application came to the Planning Committee, this Association expressed concern about the possible impact of light spillage on the neighbouring community. The tennis club sits in a small triangle of land, and backs onto relatively short gardens. We hope that these modifications will - as predicted in the letter from the council - lessen any inconvenience to residents living nearby.
Some members of this Association attend the meetings of the council-sponsored Area Forum for Raynes Park (including West Barnes) and Lower Morden, which are held every three months. The idea behind these meetings is basically to provide an interface between councillors, senior council staff and the public, allowing the public to air views and raise matters of concern.
As you can imagine, these gatherings can lapse into just talking-shops and be of little value. I like to think they can be useful, and provided there is good preparation for them and a capable chairman, they can be. The borough is divided into four areas for these meetings, the others covering Wimbledon, Morden and Mitcham.
At our request, the council has been trying to arrange for a representative of the Environment Agency to make a presentation at one of our Forum meetings about the proposed Beverley Brook Flood Alleviation Scheme, on which they have been working for the past two or three years. I will spare you the details, but it seems clear that this proposed scheme is making slower progress than we had hoped and were led to believe it would.
I have to say this is not good news. However, from direct contacts we have with the Environment Agency, I am fairly confident that a scheme will be implemented in due course. Details can follow later. The encouraging news is that a presentation is possible later this year, which hopefully suggests that a scheme is taking shape, albeit rather slowly. We will keep an eye on it.
If all goes to plan, this will hardly be news when you read this. We learned in early February that the proposals for extending traffic calming along the southern half of Grand Drive would be carried out in February/March. The main element of this scheme is the introduction of traffic lights and a "raised table" at the junction with Cannon Hill Lane. There will also be a range of other works, including two additional "tables": one in front of the Campion Centre (old St. Catherine's School) and the other near the Beverley roundabout.
No doubt these works will cause traffic problems for a while. The council was hoping to start the work during the school half-term break, for obvious reasons. Do remember that there will be an interval - which might be lengthy - between the traffic lights being installed and their actually going into operation. It would take too long to explain the reasons for this.
Touching on this subject reminds me of the traffic lights which were installed in West Barnes Lane alongside the railway level crossing. I'm sure many of you know these lights are still not operational. This absurd situation is the result of Network Rail failing to find the money to integrate the two sets of lights at this crossing. Thank goodness there is no level crossing in Grand Drive.
Those of our members who live close to Raynes Park station will remember the heated debates over the council's consultations about a controlled parking scheme two or three years ago. You only have to utter the letters CPZ and the temperature rises sharply. When it became clear that at the time, a clear majority of the people being consulted (over a rather wide catchment area, it should be said) were against the scheme, the council withdrew their proposals. However, no promise was given that a proposal for some form of CPZ would not be resurrected.
Commuter parking in a very few roads next to the station remains a problem for the residents in that area, and we learn that the council has the situation under review. This is an issue which is of much greater interest to residents living in the West Wimbledon and Apostles Residents' Association areas rather than ours. We would not expect such a scheme - if one does emerge - to affect many of our members. My guess is that any new proposals will cover a much smaller area than the previous ideas. However, we will watch this space.David Freeman