Chairman's Annual Report 2023


We are celebrating this year, two anniversaries in the life of the Association. 

The first is that we are now 95 years old!  The Association was founded in 1928 and has been going ever since, including through the years of the Second World War. 

In my view, we have never been stronger as an Association.   It is remarkable that we have maintained the same method throughout of representing our residents and communicating with our Members, and this depends entirely on the goodwill and hard work of our very many volunteers. 

Foremost among these are our Area Coordinators and Stewards whose names we publish in The Guide. They are our eyes and ears, and they distribute 2,000 copies of The Guide each month, while collecting the £3 annual subscriptions that help to pay for the production of the magazine, eleven times a year.  We couldnot exist without them.  So, a very great thank you to them all. We held a summer party as a way of thanks to them, and also a party in early December, and will be doing the same again this year. 

We always need more volunteers, and would welcome their new ideas and energy. Do please contact us if you are able to give some time to help us. We have been joined on the Committee by a new Distribution Manager, Otto Hoenig, and we thank him for coming forward, and for the enthusiastic way he has approached the task. 

We are very fortunate to have a very committed group of people who serve on our Committee. It is only right that I mention them individually, since they give so much time and effort. 

David Freeman is our Vice Chair, and remains, as he has been for over 20 years, the keenest source of information about all things to do with local planning issues.    

In planning matters we are fortunate also to have a number of other Committee members who provide all kinds of expertise.  These are Jerry Cuthbert, Michael Marks, and Dick Coleman. 

Jerry is also the Chair of the Group that manages the Pavilion and its letting, as I will detail in a moment. Dick is also our Advertising Manager and has managed to increase our income from this source considerably, as our Treasurer will report.      

Michael is also our Joint Secretary and fields all the e-mails and queries that he receives from residents and others, and skilfully deals with them. 

Jerry and Michael are also our representatives on the Raynes Park Forum and the Raynes Park Association which cover a wider area. 

All three of them are our computer experts.  Jerry posts all the news and events on our website, and between them they are considering with our Webmaster how to make this website more useful to our Members and the community at large.  Our Webmaster for many years has been Charles Briscoe-Smith and we thank him for his continued interest and support. 

Our Co-opted Committee member is Mary-Jane Jeanes, a former local councillor, who is also a brilliant help in knowing who to contact on the Council and in preparing very expert objections to the planning applications that we have to make. 

Last, but very much not least, we have our golden couple of Clare and John Townsend. They are tireless in their work for the Association. Clare is our Joint Secretary as well as minute taker, and the Editor of The Guide which improves with every edition.  She bubbles with energy. 

John is our Treasurer and keeps our finances on a very even keel, with enormously detailed and accurate speadsheets of income and expenditure.  This is a job which requires almost daily work. 

We will hear from John shortly with his report.

Our accounts have been audited for some years by Brian Lewis-Lavender and we thank him for continuing to do this. 

I mentioned at the outset that we are celebrating two anniversaries this year. The second is that it is the 10th year since we restored and opened the former tennis Pavilion in Grand Drive as the meeting hall that we have been hoping to have ever since the Association was founded. The driving force for this was Jerry Cuthbert, who oversaw the improvements and secured lottery funding (through the efforts of former member Christine Rowe) to help pay for this.  He has continued to Chair the Management Group and I want to thank him and the others member of the group who look after and let the Pavilion. These are Moira Deveson, Chris Lorimer, Tina Lorimer, and Howard Phillips, as well as committee members David Freeman and John Townsend. 

The Pavilion was able to open again fully this year, following the restrictions imposed by Covid. They are organising an Open Afternoon on Sunday 28th May between 2 and 5 pm, and will be delighted to welcome everyone to meet them and find out what goes on there. 

So what have we been doing this year?   

It has been dominated by the two planning applications to build 107 flats on the site of the former LESSA sports ground on Grand Drive.  Each of them entailed leafleting to all the surrounding residents, the submission of extremely complex objections, liaison with the various sports clubs and schools that had proposals to use the land for sports, e-mails with Sport England, and appearances at the planning committee. 

We were delighted in June when the committee refused the first application after hearing representations from us and from the three local councillors.  The application was refused by 6 votes to 4.  However, our relief was short lived. 

Within days of the decision the developers had a meeting with the council’s designated officer, a fact we only discovered under the freedom of information provisions, and sent in a second application with a deadline for responses by late August.  This was an entirely cynical move by them, clearly designed to minimise the level of opposition. Even so, we were able to make a further round of leafletting, send in further objections, and attend the second meeting which took place with unprecedented pace in September 2022.    On this occasion, the voting was 6 to 4 in favour of the application, even though it was virtually identical to the one previously refused in June. 

The planning committee has to act on a non-party basis but, from the comments of those voting in favour, it was clear that they were placing what they saw as the need to meet housing targets ahead of the planning demerits of the scheme, which was to build on a small piece of land, which was still designated as a sports ground by Merton’s borough plan. 

The formal decision to approve the plans has not yet been made, since we made an application to the Secretary of State to call it in, which had the effect of embargoing it.  This application was strongly supported by our MP, Stephen Hammond, other local residents, our councillors, and Sport England. We were promised a decision in January as to whether it should be called in, but despite chasing we have yet to receive news of any decision. 

 We hope that the decision, when it comes, will be favourable, so that a full public enquiry can be held. 

We held a very successful open meeting In September at the West Barnes Library and some 40 people came. We will be doing the same again this October. 

We were delighted at the news that work has begun to provide step free access at Motspur Park station, which is something that all of us have been urging for many years. The plan is to provide 3 new lifts, a new enclosed footbridge, and a new station building. This is due for completion in February 2024. 

A bid has also been made to secure step free access at Raynes Park station, which would involve a lift and a new walkway over the railway. We will not hear if this is approved till later this spring, and even then, it would not be built until 2029. 

We were pleased when the Council reversed its decision to impose a 20 mph limit on Bushey Road, and raised it to 30 mph t instead.  All other 20 mph limits will remain however, including the one on Grand Drive, which the police occasionally enforce.

We responded to Merton’s flooding survey. Flooding in this area was the original reason for the setting up of the Association in 1928, and, of course, has remained a major problem ever since. 

We successfully opposed an application by David Lloyd to build a permanent and visually intrusive canopy over their padel courts next to Prince George’s Playing Fields. 

We have made representations to improve the application to build warehouses on Bushey Road near Pets at Home, which affect the residents of Bodnant Gardens.  

We have kept an eye on the demolition and building work going on at the Tesco site, to ensure that the conditions of the approval are being met in full. 

We have objected to the application to build 16 flats in a 4-6 storey block at 208-212 Burlington Road, which would involve the demolition of the present Auto repair and MOT facility. 

The work goes on, and in 5 years’ time we have our centenary to look forward to! 

John Elvidge

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