As I write, traffic lights have just been installed at the junction of Cannon Hill Lane and Grand Drive. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could have predicted the consequences, which are that the traffic flow on both roads has almost come to a halt at rush hours, and that as an inevitable result the traffic is now rat-running through all the surrounding roads, including Southway and Queen Mary Avenue.
There was no need to install lights at this junction, which has coped for years with teh bus route as well as heavy lorries. Traffic turning right out of Cannon Hill Lane sometimes had to wait, but this was not a big issue. Any concerns about pupils crossing to the school would have been met by a light-controlled pedestrian crossing on Grand Drive itself, slightly away from the junction.
It is absolutely typical of Merton Council to go in for overkill of this kind. The problem identified was one of speeding vehicles and some accidents in the stretch of Grand Drive from Cannon Hill Lane up to the Beverley roundabout, and this could easily have been corrected by extending the pavements out at various places to provide sheltered bus-stops and parking for car users who want to use the two ranges of shops.
The present scheme achieves none of the intended objectives. The local councillors are trying to get a promise from the Council that the scheme will be reviewed within months, but my experience is that once a traffic scheme is installed, councils never admit mistakes, and say that it will be too expensive to take it out again! However, we can only try.
On the hottest night of the year, there was a very large turnout of local residents, particularly from the Motspur Park area, for a meeting about graffiti held in the upstairs room of St. Saviour's church. It was organized by local residents with the assistance of the West Barnes ward councillors, and particularly Cllr. Gilli Lewis-Lavender.
It was one of the most heartening meetings I have ever attended, since there was a real commitment from everyone present, which included all the relevant authorities, to keep tackling this blight on our society and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
We heard first from the station manager responsible for Raynes Park and Motspur Park stations, who had given up his evening to talk to us before having to travel home all the way to Kent. He has done a really good job with the resources available since taking over responsibility for these stations, and made some really illuminating comments about what can be done to help combat the problems.
Next, we heard from Pat de Jesus, who, with her colleague from Merton Council, and funded largely by a Home Office grant, is tackling the problem head-on with her limited resources. Her enthusiasm for what the Council were doing was apparent.
Then we had a major contribution from Inspector Allan Heaton, who is in charge of our local policing, and from our local beat officer, about the police response, and we were struck by the determination with which the force is now pursuing the aim of bringing the police back to the community. Inspector Heaton told us that in our area, graffiti is regarded as a very major issue, since once this is tackled, other sorts of crime fall away, as was the experience in New York.
Finally, we had a complementary talk from P.C. Tony Bell of the British Transport Police, who told us that they can be contacted about graffiti, but that at any one time there is only a handful of officers working out of Waterloo.
The group intends to re-convene in the autumn, and hopes to invite someone from the Wimbledon Youth Court to give their perspective as to what can be done by way of community punishment to stop young people destroying our environment.
Our webmaster has pointed out that what we say is now being reported in "Private Eye" (issue no. 1007, 28th May-10th June 2004, page 25)! The magazine noted with approval our trenchant comments on the absurd situation with Raynes Park library, where the Council totally failed to make any sensible alternative plans for the provision of books while the new library was being built, despite having had years to plan for this.
There was a very good turnout for our open meeting in June. This, of course, is one of the four meetings which are open to all members of the Association, the others being in March, September and December. In the other months, we have committee meetings where we concentrate on the detailed work of the Association.
We had an interesting contribution from Paul Armour, the secretary of Raynes Park Vale F.C., who would like to put in a bid for the land at Prince George's Playing Field in order to secure their future. This is apparently still owned by the two Norwegian millionaires who once owned the old Wimbledon Football Club, but who now seem to want to dispose of it to the highest bidder.
It is doubtful whether Raynes Park Vale F.C. could afford the price being sought, but the important thing to remember is that this is Metropolitan Open Land, which has the highest open space protection possible. The sort of price being asked indicates that the owners hope that building of some kind will some day be possible there. If so, the ownership of the land is likely to be unresolved for a very long time, and it is important
The other major item of interest was a discussion of the proposed Raynes Park controlled parking zone (CPZ). This is an issue which surfaces every few years, and to my knowledge this is the fourth proposal to introduce a CPZ to some of the "Apostles" roads in the past twenty years.
The proposal extends to streets on both sides of the railway. Residents tend to feel very strongly about such proposals, with those affected by commuter parking welcoming a scheme while others, particularly those further away, are prepared to put up with the nuisance and inconvenience rather than pay for themselves and their visitors to park outside their own homes.
Residents of the streets concerned should have received individual letters from the Council, which they were asked to return. The view of those present at the meeting was that the best way to stop commuters from outside the area clogging up the streets all day was to bring in a controlled zone for a limited period in the morning only, say from 9-10 a.m., which would inconvenience local residents the least.
The man who will make the final decision is Councillor Mickey Spacey, who took the trouble to attend the meeting to hear our views. His official title is the Merton Cabinet member for Community Engagement, Street Management, Libraries and Sport, so he will be very busy! Anyone with a particular point of view can write to him at the Civic Centre.
Ian Newman, the Head Teacher of Raynes Park High School, invited us to a meeting which he had arranged with the man responsible for making plans for the future of the RSA site. Ian's concern is that the designated sports grounds for his school are too far away to be of any practical use, and that he needs to continue to use the RSA ground, which is ideal both for his school and for others in the area. He points out that he has been at the school for nine years, and all that time the issue has remained outstanding.
The future of the ground is still uncertain, sinec the Council turned down the last planning application under designated powers following the LESSA decision by the Inspector last summer. Doubtless, the owners will soon be back with a revised application. The stance of the Association remains that the whole of the site should be retained for sporting purposes, and that there is still a large unmet need for this, as the school has shown.John Elvidge