As indicated in the April "Guide", revised plans for this site have now been submitted by Barratt Homes Ltd. The Planning Application number remains as before 00/P 2410. The plans are now available for the public to study at Merton Civic Centre, and should also be available in Morden Library and possibly also, unusually, in Raynes Park Library.
The main change is that the development, though still in the form of one- and two-bedroomed flats, would be in three blocks (instead of five), though largely occupying the same area of the site as before. However, the siting of the three blocks appears to be slightly different, with the centre block, shaped like an E on its side, taking up the major part of the development. The position of the three blocks indicates that the buildings would be very close to each other. The result is a situation in which, viewed from the remaining open space or from Blenheim Close, the impression would be a horrible example of "ribbon" development. In technical terms, the permeability (the see-through aspect) of the development would be close to negligible.
As an attempt to mitigate the adverse visual impact of the development, there is a proposal for a considerable amount of tree-planting, first in two clusters in the north-west and south-west corners of the LESSA field (in fact, well away from the new build), and secondly in an almost continuous line along the northern perimeter of the field and again along the front perimeter of the development on both sides of what would be the main access road.
Contrary to what I had hoped, the development would still be at four levels (ground floor and three storeys), but the number of flats at the top level seems to have been substantially reduced, and a number of the flats closest to Blenheim Close would be ground floor and first floor only. As far as one can judge from the drawings, the tiered effect created by different heights could lessen the intrusive visual impact, but the fact remains that the scale and mass of the development would be oppressive wherever you stood. Viewed from the properties in Greenway and Westway, the impression would be of a continuous line of building from west to east.
It is clear that the aim is to crowd in as many flats as possible on the part of the LESSA site above the 17m contour which is just outside the floodplain line. Indeed, it appears that the re-siting of the large centre block would bring the new build closer to the floodplain boundary. Car parking would be along the front of the buildings (the southern side) and, it would seem, either side of the access road. The centre of the existing field, which would become open park, would be ringed by a new pedestrian/cycle path with proposed access into Greenway and Westway alongside the existing electricity sub-stations.
Our objections to the revised plans remain the same, and just as valid as before. Let me remind you of the main points :
As if all the above is not enough to cause concern, there are other issues which the Council seem unwilling to consider. These include traffic density and the twice-daily "gridlock" in Grand Drive, which could only get worse with probably well over 100 cars on the site. Residents living around the field will also be much concerned about security, given that a large part of the field would become public open space. The planning application itself was silent on the questions of security.
We have been led to believe that, with these revised plans, there would be a further round of consultation, which should mean that if you had a letter from the Council informing you about the application, you should now receive another letter. This provides a further opportunity to look at the revised scheme and make fresh objections if you wish. There are ample grounds on which to do so.
This is back on the agenda again, but don't get too excited - at least, not yet. The selected developer "pulled" their planning application last September, for reasons which have never been made entirely clear. We learn that the Council recently went ahead with a re-tendering exercise, with a closing date of 26 April, and I can confirm that Michael Shanly Homes have submitted a new offer. We have no further details at present, and bear in mind this could be another long haul. We will keep in touch with our friends in the Apostles Residents' Association, who "lead" on this subject. We are pleased that the Council has re-opened the tendering process, and hope for better results this time round. There were many people who were unhappy last time that the area allocated for the library and the meeting room were not much larger than at present. Let us see what the new bids produce.
I mentioned briefly in the April "Guide" that a planning application has been submitted to develop a new store on this site. The Association has made an objection to this application, firstly on the grounds that the site is designated for industrial use, not retail, and secondly that the new building could result in loss of privacy and create visual intrusion to the residents in Rookwood Avenue because of the proposed height and scale of the new structure.
This might be mitigated, to some extent, by a proposal to establish a "woodland band" between Rookwood Gardens and the proposed garden centre. However, it is unclear just how effective this would be. It would also take many years before this screen of trees achieved its objective.
We also expressed concern about the proposed large underground car park, remembering that the site is within the floodplain of the Beverley Brook. Government guidance on development in a floodplain area, other than for residential purposes, is lacking in clarity, but any development or re-development in such an area clearly needs to be treated with caution. We have urged the Council to take advice from the Environment Agency regarding this aspect of the scheme. It may be quite a while before we see any movement on this application.
Two planning applications were submitted in March on the site of this unusual house at the junction of Seaforth and Adela Avenues. The first was to convert the ground floor office and first floor flat into a guest house/hotel, with a new rear extension to provide most of the bedroom accommodation, and the second to convert two more flats.
The Association opposed both these applications for a variety of reasons, not least that the extensions would have been a massive overdevelopment of the site and were likely to impact on the privacy and amenity of neighbouring properties. Both applications were seeking a change of use, because the ground floor is designated for office use (though I believe it is currently unused). Many local residents living around the area made objections to the Council in respect of both applications. There was a lot of concern about the unsuitability of the location as a hotel in the midst of a residential area which already has difficult parking problems. We learn that both applications have been refused by Merton Council.
The "improvements" around Raynes Park station were due to have been completed by the end of March, but have continued for several weeks thereafter. Some of the changes do not seem to be quote what we had expected. We will have to see how all the changes work out. It looks as though the re-located bus stop has helped to free the flow of westbound traffic through the centre, at least. At the moment, I am left in some doubt as to how cyclists and pedestrians are supposed to conveniently avoid each other at certain points of the system. May I once again make a plea to cyclists using the Cattle Arch to exercise care and consideration towards those on foot.David J. Freeman