Local developments

Chairman's Objection to Bellway's Application 20/P3237





We are a Residents’ Association with 1800 household members in our area. 

We make this objection further to the objection submitted by us by e-mail on 29 November 2020.   

We have fought to keep the LESSA sports ground in use for sport for over 20 years. 

LESSA closed the sports ground in September 2000.  It contained two full sized cricket pitches, and an overlapping cricket pitch, four tarmac tennis courts, a pavilion, and a children’s play area, with parking for between 70 and 80 cars. 

In 2002-3 we opposed a plan by Barratt Homes Limited to build 111 apartments in 2,3, and 4 story blocks on this land.  The Council refused the application for outline planning permission on 17 October 2002, and a Planning Inspector refused the appeal entirely on 19 June 2003. We gave evidence to the Inquiry. 

The land was then sold to a company called Doram Properties Limited. That company applied for planning permission on 4 July 2008 to build 44 units of accommodation. But, importantly, the application was for the retention and re-use of 4.07 hectares of playing fields, providing two rugby/football pitches, a cricket ground and tennis courts for community use, and the erection of two sports pavilions. The Planning Applications Committee refused the application formally on 20 February 2009, and Doram appealed. 

A different Planning Inspector upheld the appeal and so granted approval on 1 October 2009. It is very important to note the Inspector fully expected that the plan should be completed as a whole, and that the permission to build the housing was dependent on the rest of the ground being made available for community use.  These requirements were set out in a section 106 Unilateral Undertaking. 

The evidence before the Inspector was that King’s College School wanted to use the ground for their juniors and that it would be made available to other community users for a minimum of 500 hours per annum. A tennis club and pavilion would be provided on part of the land at the owner’s expense.  If KCS did not want to take up this opportunity, the Council could do so itself. It was, in his words, “an enabling development”. He ruled that: “The proposal would provide high quality playing fields, tennis courts and pavilions which, unlike the original facilities, would be available for use by local people”.  

The Inspector concluded that “the community, sporting and recreational benefits arising from the proposed development significantly outweigh the loss of a relatively small part of this disused and derelict sports ground”. 

Doram sold the entire site to Bellway on 24 May 2010, on this basis. They build the 44 units of accommodation which is now called Meadowview Road, and provided tennis courts and a pavilion for the Raynes Park Tennis Club.  They also provided a small play area for the children of residents.  

However, King’s College School decided not to take up the option of a lease of the land, which was secured by the Unilateral Undertaking, and the Council did not take up its option under the same Undertaking to do so either. 

When the properties were bought privately, the new owners, we have been told, received assurances from Bellway that the large balance of the land would be retained for sport. 

Since that time, Bellway has done nothing more than maintain the hedges, and mow the grass. Latterly, the play area has been left unkempt and unusable.  

As an Association we have since asked Bellway on a number of occasions to meet sporting bodies and schools who wanted to use the land for sport. 

As early as 16 May 2014 Bellway’s Chief Executive wrote to Stephen Hammond MP that: 

“There are no further planning obligations on Bellway as owner to enter into arrangements with other organisations for the use of the Sports Fields. I can confirm that Bellway has fulfilled the obligations set down in the Planning Approval and Unilateral Undertaking and that the London Borough of Merton chose not to take up the Option of taking a lease for the Sports Fields. In the circumstances I have asked the Regional Managing Director to contact the Headmaster of a particular school to discuss the situation”. 

On 12 December 2016 the Regional Director of Bellway Homes Ltd (South London Division) wrote to us that: “we are under no further obligation to bring forward land for use as a sports field. We are fully aware of the interest in the sports field from other organisations who are willing to take over the management of the sports field. However, our intention is to seek a further release of the Sports Field Allocation for enabling development, in order to provide delivery of a high quality recreational/community use for the benefit of the local community.  It is recognised that the Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents Association is a key stakeholder to any development of the site and will be contacted directly in early 2017 to ensure that the ideas of the Residents Association can be discussed and included in any early proposals for the site”. 

We heard nothing from Bellway after that, and the Association was only made aware of their current proposals in August through a member of the Tennis Club. 

They have totally failed to consult us. They did not inform us of either of the marketing schemes they held this year, at the Council’s behest.   They submitted to the Council that “there is no interest in the site being used solely as sports fields” which was palpably untrue, as we shall show. 

We are pleased that the local plan for the site RP6 states that “Sporting or community use of the whole site will have to be demonstrated as undeliverable before any other uses can be considered”. And under “Opportunities” states that: “The site may have opportunities for whole site sports use. Use of the site for sports use or other uses compatible with the designated open space should be actively demonstrated prior to any alternatives being taken forward”. 

In the short period since early August we have identified a number of sporting associations and schools which are keen to use the ground, some of which to our knowledge have contacted Bellway already. They are all local to Merton.  Had Bellway consulted us earlier, as they promised to do, and, we assume, deliberately decided not to do, we could have identified sporting partners much earlier.  

A Cricket Academy has offered to take a lease for at least 10 years at £20,000 per annum, and to build a pavilion. It coaches 180 boys and girls each year. The offer was made to Haslams Surveyors LLP by letter dated 14 September 2020, following a letter of interest dated 7 September 2020. The Academy stated that Paragraph 113 of Bellway’s Sports Needs and Viability Report, October 2002, is untrue in its claim that: “They have therefore been contacted” since to assess the viability of the scheme.  No such contact was made. 

Also, a Cricket Club made a detailed offer, setting out that they would finance the pavilion and re-lay the cricket pitch utilising lottery funding and providing the 50% balance of the costs from their own finances and sponsors.   Paragraph 114 of the same report dismisses this offer off hand as not “a compliant viable bid” when it has not been discussed with them. 

These two cricket clubs may probably ground share. 

A junior school in Wimbledon has expressed an interest in buying the ground, for junior sports in the week, and has instructed a surveyor, and would ground share with the Cricket Academy and the Cricket Club at weekends and in the school holidays.  The School first registered an interest with the surveyors on 16 September 2020. 

Paragraph 122 of the same report is also inaccurate in stating that “There were no viable, compliant bids from commercial operators, clubs, schools or other bodies to purchase, develop and operate the site as a whole”. The footnote to that paragraph is also wrong in stating that Haslams had receive no reply as at 4.10.20 of any kind from these organisations. 

We note that Haslams decided not to place a marketing (for sale/to let) board at the site (paragraph 10.9 of their report) which would immediately have resulted in many expressions and much earlier expressions of interest. 

All these approaches need to be explored fully by Bellway and found to be “undeliverable” before they can properly lodge a planning application. 

Bellway has lodged with the application a report which claims that the offers made were either out of time, or not “viable”. Both of these claims are palpably untrue. 

Bellway should not have been allowed to lodge this application until they had shown clearly that no viable sporting offers had been received. This they have failed to do. 


The plan now proposes that a small part of the sports ground is used for tennis, on site play, an outdoor gym, a trim trail and jogging and walking routes. Given that Bellway similarly promised to maintain a play area for the children of residents, which has not been maintained or is open, we doubt their commitment to maintain these facilities, when they have made their further profit from the site and left. 


We also doubt their commitment to provide suitable flood prevention measures at the site. The existing provisions provided by them are clearly not sufficient, as surface water from the existing development leads to flooding in heavy rain pouring down the footpath from Meadowview Road to Westway and Greenway. Building on the major portion of the rest of the ground will clearly exacerbate the problem. 

The size of the proposed private maisonettes is less than the Government’s technical housing standards. Bellway are obviously trying to cram too much housing on the site to maximise their profits. 

As residents we are outraged that having bought the ground under a clear planning decision that only 44 units of housing were permitted, and on the clear basis that the rest of the ground should be used for sports,  Bellway has since refused to contemplate any sporting user for the ground, but waited 10 years until they thought that the need for more housing would result in a planning decision in their favour. 

While the community does need more housing, it also requires the continued provision of sports grounds, and housing should not be built on such grounds.   The clear need for these has been demonstrated during this pandemic. 

The Planning Applications Committee should refuse this application. 

John Elvidge


Chairman of the Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents’ Association

30 November 2020

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