Local developments

Rainbow Industrial Estate - Planning Approval Granted

Many of you will be aware that planning approval was granted by Merton Council last September for redevelopment of this site. In fact there were two applications, one to provide 215 flats and 9 houses plus a small number of office and small business units. The other was to provide, what is known as, a ‘Kiss and Ride‘facility at the entrance. This, in brief, is a drop-off and pick-up arrangement incorporating a roundabout.





Office of the Mayor - The Greater London Authority (GLA ) 

The approval by Merton Council was, to be precise, only in draft form. The reason for this is that with applications on large sites and where the proposals are for more than 150 residential units the GLA holds responsibility for the final approval (unless the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government intervenes). As I write this aspect is unknown but is probably unlikely. 

At City Hall - GLA HQ - planning matters are delegated to a Deputy Mayor, Sir Edward Lister. He informed Merton Council on 24 November last year that the GLA were content to leave the ‘determination’ of the applications to Merton and therefore did not wish to direct refusal. All of this was notwithstanding a robust Objection to both applications by this Association and by many other people. The grounds for our Objection were fully set out in the Guide in the February edition last year.   So the applicant - Workspace 12 Ltd - would now be free to proceed with their proposals. This does not mean however that demolition of the present buildings and redevelopment is likely to start in the near future   for several reasons. 

Change of Use 

As with all large scheme applications approval is granted subject to a number of formal ‘Conditions‘and in this case it is quite a long list. In large part the reason for this is the very significant ‘Change of Use‘being contemplated - in short the conversion of what is currently an Industrial site into a largely residential development. Workspace Ltd. or more likely specialist companies acting for them, will be required to submit reports to Merton Council covering a wide range of issues, When these reports are considered they will  (hopefully from the  point of view of the applicant) be ‘discharged‘ meaning the Condition has been satisfied or the proposals are acceptable. 


It might help if I give a couple of examples. Bearing in mind that Rainbow has been an active Industrial site for many years it is probable that there is at least some contamination of the land. There will be a Condition that the extent of this will have to be investigated and suitable measures set out to deal with the problem. I should add that this particular task - on a site like this - could take several months. There have been instances where it has taken years to clean up serious contamination. 

Secondly there will be a Condition that proposals for ‘Soft Landscaping ‘should be provided: trees, shrubs and green spaces. As you might imagine there is not much greenery on site at present!  In this case the Council will assess whether the programme of work looks acceptable and if so will ‘Discharge‘the Condition. 

Most of these Conditions have to be dealt with before any actual construction work starts but some come into play later on e.g. a programme for the maintenance and upkeep of the site for a specified period of time.    

Land Ownership 

The Rainbow site is a bit unusual in terms of land ownership. Workspace hold title to a large part of the site beyond the railway bridge but the entrance roadway, up to the bridge, is owned by Network Rail who also own land and a large building close to the railway lines. These NR facilities were excluded from the proposals in the planning applications. You can see from this that redevelopment of the Estate is far from straightforward but there are one or two further complications. 

The ‘Kiss and Ride ‘Proposal 

It would appear that right up to the time when Merton Council gave draft approval to the applications last September there was no clear evidence that Workspace and Network Rail had agreement over use and therefore redevelopment of the entrance roadway. This does seem odd bearing in mind Workspace have been working on their plans for some 5 years and given that there is only the one entrance with no scope for an alternative. In short the entrance is critical to ANY redevelopment of the site. It does make one wonder whether the Kiss and Ride will be delivered and this is supposed to be THE aspect of the proposals of benefit to the wider public.

That said there is another tricky issue waiting in the wings. 

Crossrail 2 (CR 2) 

Many of you will have heard about this huge scheme still very much in the planning phase. For us locally the main focus of the proposals is the intention to provide rail links from Shepperton, Chessington South and Epsom to Victoria and Euston all routed through Raynes Park Station. The CR 2 proposals are being worked up - it would appear - on a Station by Station approach and are subject to revision all the time depending on, for example, ground surveying and the feedback from consultations. 

The CR 2 Team, including representatives of Network Rail and Traffic for London wisely point out and I quote “We still cannot guarantee that a railway will be built“. The current plan is for two additional tracks running south from Wimbledon Station into Raynes Park Station which would have new, much longer platforms and new signalling. Raynes Park Local Centre would be facing a huge building programme if, .of course, it all goes ahead. To give you a flavour of what might be to come - one of the published documents says - “Raynes Park will become a Major Interchange Station with up to 20 CR 2 trains per hour into, and across, central London“. Perhaps our Station will become Raynes Park Junction.  Perhaps! 

‘Safeguarding‘the Land 

As you can imagine huge building works at local Stations and alongside the tracks will require additional land either permanently or (relatively speaking) on a short term basis. So the CR 2 Team are ‘safeguarding‘ land either side of the existing tracks and Stations, but as far as we are concerned, this process of setting the boundaries of land needed has only reached just North of Wimbledon Station. 

The ‘safeguarded‘areas would be needed for storage of materials and heavy plant and of course the construction of additional tracks and platforms etc. As we understand it, when all the construction is finished, a lot of the land previously ‘safeguarded‘ in the wider areas will be returned to the previous use. But there will be inevitable loss of land and probably some buildings for the new tracks and rebuilt Stations. 

Impact on the Rainbow Estate 

We still wait to see the proposals for ‘safeguarding‘ the land around Raynes Park Station the details of which may not be available until well into next year but it is worth looking at what has happened at another site similar in some ways to Rainbow. 

The CR 2 proposals include a 20 mile tunnel under Central London which was originally intended to emerge SOUTH of Wimbledon Station at the Dundonald Road Industrial site. However this was changed and the tunnel ‘Portal‘, as it is called, would now be NORTH of Wimbledon Station on the Gap Road Industrial site. 

It so happens that a Planning Application was submitted on this site in late 2014 for a mix of residential and business use not very long before the Crossrail team were setting out the boundary of the land which would need to be ‘safeguarded‘ in order to build the ‘Portal‘. In the event the whole of the Application Site (for the residential/business application has been ‘enveloped‘by the safeguarding process. As you might guess in consequence Merton Council has refused the Gap Road Planning Application. Is it possible, I wonder, whether the same fate awaits the Rainbow site only with a different sequence of events? 

What Happens Now?

Well, planning approval for the residential/business redevelopment of the Rainbow site sits on the table but there are a string of Conditions which need to be worked through and presumably some sort of working arrangement will be needed between Network Rail and the developers over redevelopment at the entrance roadway if we are ever to see the long-awaited Kiss and Ride;  but then sometime during the second half of next year the CR 2 Team will define the boundary of land to be ‘safeguarded‘ around Raynes Park Station. 

In the light of what has happened at Gap Road and the extent of the ‘safeguarding’ we can expect around Wimbledon Station you have to wonder how much of the Rainbow site will still be available for residential/business redevelopment  once the CR 2 Team get to grips in our area. Remember there is only the one entrance to Rainbow which I assume would HAVE to be safeguarded but more than that surely it would be critical to be retained as the entrance for plant and materials for the re-building of Raynes Park Station perhaps for the whole of the construction period - up to 10 years! 

This sounds like a muddle. If the Greater London Authority and the Government are serious about CR 2, and remember it has been known for ages that Raynes Park Station is crucial for the proposed extension of CR 2 services out to Kingston, Surbiton and beyond, would it not have made more sense for either the Mayor or the Secretary of State to have ‘directed‘that the Planning Application considered last September be put ON HOLD until the availability of the Rainbow site was much clearer? Sadly there does not seem to be any process for this sort of joined-up thinking.

Click the following link for our previous article about the Rainbow Estate - Rainbow Estate Planning Application - September 2015.



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