Having heard in early March that "revised plans" were expected from Barratt Homes Ltd., I eventually laid hands on these on 7th May, and details were printed in the June "Guide". One point to note is that the second revision of the plans still bears the same Planning Application number, 00/P2410. From the moment we heard that these revised plans were on their way, I was assured by the Case Officer in the Council, Mr. Duyile, that there would be a further public consultation. In fact, this was delayed, so I am told, while the Council waited for extra copies of the drawings. Raynes Park Library had copies by 17th May.
However, as they say, the plot thickens! The re-consultation letter dated 23rd May tells us not only about the revised plans to 00/P2410 (mainly the number of flats, slightly different siting and landscaping), but also that a "new application", number 02/P1042, had been submitted. This new application (which is again for outline approval, but better treated as though it were for full approval) is the same as the second revision, except to add two more pedestrian access points, in Blenheim Road and Blenheim Close. My understanding from the Council is that all objections submitted in respect of the second revision to 00/P2410 will be considered by the Planning Department along with any made in response to the new application. However, if you have objections to the additional access points, it will be necessary to submit a further objection, quoting P/A no. 02/P1042. As you will see, there is a similarity in the two numbers ; take care when quoting these. Those of you living close to the LESSA field will also have seen a letter from Councillor Lewis-Lavender advising about the new application and commenting on our concerns about this proposal.
Those of you who received the re-consultation letter of 23rd May will, no doubt, have been surprised by a reference to a letter of 3rd May advising you about the "amended drawings" in respect of P/A 00/P2410. To put it mildly, there is a mystery about the letter "dated 3rd May 2002". We doubt whether this was ever issued from the Civic Centre as intended. After making enquiries, one of our members received a copy of this letter dated 10th May 2002! What is clear, however, is that a Yellow Notice was posted on the gates at LESSA, in respect of the new application 02/P1042, dated 11th June with the normal twenty-one days allowed for comments. In fact, the Planning Department will normally take account of comments right up to the day prior to a committee meeting, but of course it is safer to keep within the 21-day period if possible.
As Gilli Lewis-Lavender pointed out in her letter, it is anticipated that this application, or rather these two applications, will go to the Planning Committee on 25th July, though further delay would be no surprise. We continue to oppose the development of housing on this "greenfield" site at the present time, and believe we have a compelling case. It remains to be seen whether the final decision on these applications will be taken out of Merton's hands either by the Greater London Authority (the office of the Mayor) or by the Whitehall Department.
In the July edition of the "Guide", there is a letter from Merton's Education, Leisure and Libraries Department about the above site, which has become redundant as a result of the educational "Age of Transfer" arrangements. I hope readers will find the letter self-explanatory.
The Association was consulted on a draft Planning Brief for this site last October. The fields are rather remote, tucked into a corner between the Kingston by-pass and railway line on the western boundary of the Borough. This two-hectare site, which is owned by the Council, is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (the London equivalent of Green Belt - like Prince George's) and thus has the highest degree of protection available under the Unitary Development Plan. I sent in a few comments on this draft Brief last year, and it has now been approved. To give credit where it is due, the Brief is a very comprehensive document, and is mainly intended as guidance to potential developers as to what can and cannot be accepted in planning terms. Planning applications for the site can only be considered if the Secretary of State for Education and Skills consents to the Council's application (see the letter of 21st May on page 5 of the July "Guide").
As an MOL-designated site, the use of the land is restricted, in the main, to outdoor sport and recreation, agriculture, forestry or nature conservation. Any proposed new building would have to pass the test of being essential facilities in support of whichever use was permitted. The Planning Brief states that "The Council will ensure that it is retained as green space and its open character protected". Let us hope it will be. It is a great pity that any school playing-field should be sold off - or leased in this case - but at least this field should be retained as essentially a greenfield site. I only wish that a more far-sighted attitude prevailed in the case of many other similar sites.
You may recall that some months ago, I reported that the Council had engaged a firm of planning consultants, W.S. Atkins Ltd., to undertake a study of parks and open spaces across the Borough. At the time, there seemed to be some haste, not only in mounting the exercise but also in seeking the report from the consultants. The original hope was that the firm would report by the end of February, and the stated intention was that the report would be circulated as a consultation document. I learn from Chris Mountford in the Council that the final version of the report emerged in late May. The reason for the delay is a bit obscure, but connected in some way with new documentation from the Sports Council and what was the Department for Local Government, Transport and the Regions. Anyway, the plan is to put the report to the Cabinet of Merton Council, seeking permission to submit the document for consultation. We will try to keep an eye on this, as it may well impinge on the future of the three large sportsgrounds in our area.
Having mentioned Prince George's in passing, I am prompted to remind you that the future use of this extensive site is still a matter of concern. Wimbledon Football Club still hold their long lease on the site, and we now know that they have been given the green light to re-locate to Milton Keynes. The talk is of playing their games in Milton Keynes and having a training facility in Raynes Park, which sounds a bit odd. If the club do not want to develop the site, or cannot afford to do so, somebody else may want to. As touched on earlier, the Field is protected by its Metropolitan Open Land status, and we expect the Council to honour that designation.David J. Freeman