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Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents' Association
Serving the community since 1928

Planning News, September 2004

82 Coombe Lane - the launderette

The June edition of "The Guide" contained some notes about the two planning applications submitted for this site. They were both for change of use: in the first case to food and drink, and in the second to an amusement centre.

Both applications were considered by the Planning Committee on 22nd July, with a recommendation from the Planning Department in each case to grant permission. A number of conditions were attached in both cases, mainly about permitted hours of operation. After rather ponderous consideration, the committee decided to approve the first application and refuse the second (the amusement centre). However, do not assume from this that we shall shortly see another pizza take-away, for reasons I will explain.

The application for the amusement arcade, in particular, had raised a lot of concern, and the council chamber was full. The agenda paper records that the council had received a petition signed by 308 people supporting retention of the launderette. In respect of the first application, 25 letters of objection had been received, and for the second no fewer than 137, which in itself illustrates the strength of feeling about this proposal.

The Association was well-represented at the meeting, and two of our members spoke in support of thr formal objection to both applications which we had submitted. Councillors Lewis-Lavender (West Barnes) and Bullinger (Raynes Park) also spoke objecting to both applications. Several other members joined in this protest and made valuable contributions. Not a single person from those in attendance spoke in favour of either application, and, oddly, the applicant, or his agent, either did not make an appearance, or, if he did, chose to remain silent.

In terms of planning guidance, the case for and against the change of use to a hot food take-away was finely-balanced, and - to be frank - it was never going to be easy to persuade the committee towards refusal. In the case of the amusement arcade, the Planning Department tried to present an argument that, on balance, "it would be reasonable" to grant permission, despite the fact that strict interpretation of the planning guidelines suggested otherwise.

As indicated earlier, the Planning Committe (an all-party group of councillors) voted to refuse the second application, but this is far from the end of the matter. The applicant submitted an appeal on the grounds of "non-determination", and this came in before the committee met. So we shall now have to await a ruling from the Planning Inspectorate, based in Bristol.

Perhaps I should explain that the pronouncement made by the committee at the meeting is deemed to be the one they would have made if they had been able to make a decision in normal circumstances. In a sense, all of this is academic, because the applicant has an automatic right of appeal anyway if the committee is free to make, and decides on, a refusal "determination". It is worth remembering that the applicant - provided he agrees to the conditions tied to approval and is granted a certificate - could now go ahead with a hot food take-away without waiting for the appeal ruling on the amusement arcade. An unusual and rather puzzling turn of events all round.

By way of background, let me offer you some clarification. Anyone whose planning application is not decided on within eight weeks can submit an appeal on the grounds of "non-determination". This is deemed to be refusal of the application, although in most cases they would get approval in due course. In reality, few applicants exercise this right, mainly for two reasons. The first is that the sheer volume of applications makes it next to impossible to process them all within eight weeks, and the applicants for the larger schemes recognise this and live with it. The second reason is that many applicants for large or contentious applications are in negotiation with the council - both before and after the application has been submitted - in an attempt to tailor the scheme so that it is compliant with planning policies. These negotiations can last months, sometimes even years, and clearly it would be pointless to slap in an appeal while - from the applicant's perspective at least - progress was being made. The timing of the appeal on the amusement arcade seems very odd. We shall just have to await events.

A new B&Q warehouse?

In June, a planning application was submitted to Merton Council for a "landmark" mixed-use development at Shannon Corner, where Burlington Road joins the north-bound slip road onto the A3. You may remember that there was an earlier proposal - on essentially the same site - a couple of years ago. That scheme was for purely retail services on two floors, and would have included underground car-parking.

Following discussions with Merton Council and the GLA, a new design has evolved. The intention now is to provide customer parking (over 400 spaces)on the ground floor, with the retail side on the first floor accessed by lifts and travelators. There would be no underground car-parking. I understand that B&Q was "encouraged" to adopt a mixed-use scheme, which, when decoded, means there would be some housing. The design includes 51 residential properties in a mews style on the western boundary of the development. The leaflet I have says: "In line with London Borough of Merton policy, 30% of these properties would be affordable." Of course they mean "affordable housing"; it is not - one hopes - intended to imply that the other 70% will not be affordable!

If this scheme goes ahead as intended, it will certainly transform the appearance of Shannon Corner, and the building would be highly visible from the raised section of the A3. It is claimed that the new store would provide over 40,000 DIY and gardening products under one roof, and create about 200 new jobs in addition to the 83 currently employed in Burlington Road. Although of little concern to most people, the existing B&Q is in the Borough of Kingston, being just on the far side of the Beverley Brook - the borough boundary. The new B&Q would be in Merton, which presumably would be welcome news to many in the Civic Centre at Morden. It will probably take quite a while for this application to reach the planning committee, so we may learn more later.

14-16 Coombe Lane - The Pinehouse

I do wish the owner of the Pinehouse would make up his mind what he wants to do. Yet another planning application has been submitted for this site, despite the fact that two earlier applications were both approved - the first after an appeal.

The new application is to demolish the existing building and replace it with a retail unit on the ground floor and basement, with six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom flats above. There would be no parking provision for the occupants of the flats, which was the bone of contention with the original application. In that case, the Inspector concluded that this was not a significant constraint on the development, and upheld the appeal.

It is far from clear, but the impression gained from looking at the elevation drawings is that the potential developer may be intending to integrate this scheme with the proposals for the adjacent site - the old Co-Op. If this was so, it might explain why nothing has started on the Co-Op site for so long. There would certainly be considerable advantage to the builder of a joint scheme, if that is the plan, because of the problems of access in re-developing the Pinehouse on its own.

Raynes Park Controlled Parking Scheme

Many of you living in roads close to Raynes Park station will have received consultation material from the council in early July. The proposal put forward was a modification of a scheme considered three years ago. That scheme was withdrawn after a majority of people voted against it. With this latest proposal, the boundary of the proposed zone is much smaller, and consequently there may be a different outcome this time.

I had hoped to learn how people were responding to the consultation at the Raynes Park and Lower Morden Area Forum meeting at the end of July. The Principal Traffic Engineer declined to give even a hint of how the votes were going. "We are still counting them," he said. If consideration of the proposals by the council goes to plan, I may be able to report more next month. A final decision on the CPZ will have to wait for later.

35 Coombe Lane - the electricity sub-station

This is another site where the applicant seems reluctant to make up his mind. A new planning application was submitted earlier in the year for a six-storey development providing 26 flats - a mixture of one- and two-bedroom units. There have been two previous applications in fairly recent times, both of which were, I believe, withdrawn.

The site, which is not very visible to the public, forms a triangle of land next to the Thames Water offices. With this new application, there would be no on-site parking provision, and no amenity space (gardens), though some of the flats would have balconies.

We believe the proposal would be a very considerable over-development on this tiny piece of land, particularly in terms of height and density, and that it would be totally out of character with the adjoining townscape. The Association has submitted a formal objection, and we pointed out that if this scheme went forward, it could significantly hinder the scope for the possible later re-development of the Thames Water site and car-park which is the site of a "Site Proposal" in Merton's Unitary Development Plan.

One good piece of news is that London Electricity have filled in the space which used to be a recycling "bring" facility. So at long last people have stopped leaving cans and bottles at this spot.