Ian Newman, the Headteacher of Raynes Park High School, has called an important public meeting on Monday 16th May in the main hall of the School to discuss proposals about the future of the Royal and Sun Alliance Ground. The Ground is next to the school and would be ideal as a sports ground for its use, and could be used also for West Wimbledon Primary School and Sacred Heart Primary School, neither of which have grounds at their schools.
Raynes Park High School alone has some 1200 pupils, so the issue is of the greatest importance for the schools concerned. The land is privately owned, and has not been used for sport on a regular basis for some years. The owners have been having discussions with Ian Newman about allowing the School to have the major use of the ground, on the basis that they could obtain planning permission to build housing and flats on the rest of the land, away from the present housing and largely along Bushey Road.
Clearly a lot of details remain to be worked out, but the proposals may be able to secure the large part of the ground for renewed sporting purposes. Of course, those who live around the ground may have strong reservations about or objections to the proposals, and the Association is not endorsing any of the proposals at this stage. However, we do feel it right to give advice on the proposals, to give them the maximum publicity, and to attend the public meeting. I hope there will be a very good turnout so that issues can be fully set out and debated.
The Association has already put in detailed objections to the plans to build housing and flats on this site when it is no longer needed for school purposes. The plans continue to change, and, as I write, the plans have not yet been put on the agenda of the planning committee. When it is considered, we hope to argue our case against the development in person.
The Borough Police Commander, Michael Wood, came and addressed the Wimbledon Union of Residents' Associations. According to their minutes, he said that the police were doing a reasonable job in Merton with petty crime such as burglary, and vehicle and street crime down over the last five years, that public confidence in the police has increased, and response rates to crime were improving.
However, the public perception was that policing had not kept pace with requirements, despite an overall increase in numbers from 28,000 in 1993 to 30,000 in 2004, with a planned increase of 5,000 more. The public did not feel safe, and this was probably because of the increase in anti-social behaviour. Because of this perception, the police were introducing dedicated safer neighbourhood police teams over the next four years, although Wimbledon would be the last area to receive a team!
There is a lot of violence (as reported in earlier editions of the Guide) in the Village and in the Broadway at the weekend owing to the excessive consumption of alcohol, and the police had a dedicated team dealing with this. The police had been trained as response officers, and they needed training to act as neighbourhood liaison officers.
The point was made that it was impossible to get through to a local number at the police station. The commander said that this would not be solved for a long time due to the antiquated telephone system and the only solution was to have the mobile phone numbers of individual police officers. (We now publish routinely in the Guide local police contact details).
Comments to Commander Wood can be made by email: email@example.com.
Doubtless as part of the same exercise the police and the Council have jointly published their so called Merton Crime and Drugs Audit for the period 2001-4. This shows that overall in Merton disorder is down 9%, street crime down 32%, burglary down 14%, and vehicle crime down 13%. However, disorder in licensed premises increased by 9%.
A survey conducted last year showed that residents were slightly more worried about anti-social behaviour than crime, and that "teenagers hanging around" was the main problem. There were particular problems about diverting young people from crime, graffiti, dangerous driving, and providing more visible policing. The Borough is divided into wards to show the relative distribution of offences. As might be expected Raynes Park and West Barnes continue to one of the safest areas in which to live with the lowest incidence of crime or social disorder.
We have yet to receive any response to our requests that the narrowing of Coombe Lane should be put on hold while this Association, whose residents are most affected, are consulted. On the contrary, the work goes on apace causing chaos in the area. Nor is there yet any sign of the promised consultation on the effect of the Grand Drive traffic scheme. There does seem to be a particular arrogance that affects traffic engineers and planners, who seem to think that they always know best. May I humbly suggest that laymen might also have a lot of valuable commonsense to give, if they were consulted properly.
I can't resist a gripe of the month. Why is it that when there is a hugely expensive cycle track in Coombe Lane, some cyclists will not use it but insist on riding down the main road, blocking all the traffic behind them. It is bad enough having to stop behind a bus which can't pull in because of the track, but it is too much when cyclists don't even use the track provided for them at great inconvenience and expense to everyone else.John Elvidge