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

LESSA - the story continues

News of Barratt Homes' appeal against the decision of Merton's Planning Committee

Since the last update informing readers that Merton Council's Planning Committee had emphatically rejected Barratts' development proposals to build 111 flats on the LESSA sportsground, you will not be surprised to learn that Barratts have lodged an appeal against the rejection with the government's Planning Inspectorate in Bristol.

You may recall that Barratts submitted two applications that were almost identical. Throughout its deliberations Merton Council only dealt with one of the applications, taking no action on the other. It is on this unactioned application that Barratts have appealed, on the grounds that it has not been dealt with within the statutory time limit allowed.

The appeal will be heard by a public inquiry to take place (probably at Merton Civic Centre) sometime in the new year. At the time of writing no date has been set, but it is anticipated that it will not be until sometime around Easter. Merton will be contesting the appeal and have engaged planning consultants to represent them at the hearing. Barratts have done likewise.

All interested parties had to submit a preliminary inquiry statement to the Planning Inspectorate by 3rd December outlining the grounds on which they will base their respective arguments at the hearing. The Residents' Association will be opposing the appeal and has submitted a preliminary inquiry statement to the Planning Inspectorate.

It should be remembered that since Merton Council rejected the application at the Planning Committee stage, both the Council and the Residents' Association are now both "pulling together" in opposing Barratts appeal.

The Residents' Association remains in no doubt that the LESSA site should and could be retained as an outdoor sports facility.

Latest news

The good news ...

News was received on 18th December from Merton Council that Barratt Homes have withdrawn their appeal to the Planning Inspectorate on the non-determination of one of their planning applications for the LESSA Sportsground in Grand Drive. This is the culmination of months of hard work by David Freeman and Bob Simpson, and they are to be congratulated on this magnificent achievement. The other application was rejected by the Council's Planning Committee in October, and it is not anticipated that Barratts will lodge an appeal against that decision.

We do not, however, believe this is necessarily the end of the threat to the LESSA Sportsground. It may well be that Barratts will submit a fresh application for a smaller development on the site in the new year. We shall continue to maintain a vigilant watch on the Council's planning notices in the coming months. Our thanks go to all those residents who have supported us and turned out to the Council's planning meetings when asked. Well done !

The bad news ...

No sooner had we been informed that Barratts had withdrawn their appeal on the non-determined application, than they submitted a fresh appeal on the application rejected by Merton Council's Planning Committee. The Council notified everyone of this in a letter dated 3rd January which hit the doorsteps the following week, over two weeks after the appeal was lodged with the Planning Inspectorate on 20th December.

As before, all interested parties had to submit a preliminary inquiry statement within six weeks from the date of the appeal. This period expired on 31st January. At the time of writing (10th January), it is anticipated that the Residents' Association will re-submit the statement previously provided on the first appeal with a little "tweaking" here and there to reference numbers, etc..

Exactly why Barratts have done this is not totally clear. The Planning Office suggested that it was because Barratts could not agree an inquiry date with the Planning Inspector, and this will give them further options at a later time. All this will just prolong the agony of trying to fend off development on a valuable sports facility.

It is now more than two years since the initial application was made, and an awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge in that time, both literally and metaphorically. We wait to eventually learn the date of the inquiry, which is not expected for several months to come.

Martin Mitchell