Chairman's Blog - August 2012


Members will remember that there was a proposal a few years ago to build an anaerobic food digester in the Rainbow Industrial Estate next to Raynes Park Station.  This was resisted strongly by local residents, local Councillors, and the Association, and was dropped. 

We then urged Merton’s planning officers to discuss with us all what we did want on this site, before preparing a planning brief which could go out to formal consultation. That is because the site is a large and important one, next to the centre of Raynes Park, but has only one access, being bounded by the railways on the other sides.  It is designated for use for light industry and business, but it has appeared in recent years to be run down and semi-derelict. The planning situation is more complex since the entrance to the site and the surrounding buildings are in the different ownership of Network Rail. 

A comprehensive plan was needed, but we did not want to be presented with another plan drawn up by the owners, after extensive conversations with the planners, and then presented to us in a planning application as a fait accompli. Instead we wanted the planning officers, whom we pay, to come to us for ideas as to what we wanted. 

Various suggestions for a better use of the site were being suggested locally. 

There was universal agreement that we need an area near the station where people can park for a very short while waiting for someone to come off a train, or to drop a person at the station.  Steps needed to be taken to separate out the vehicular traffic from pedestrians, which is dangerous at present.   It would be useful if part of the site could be designated for car parking, with a time limit of a couple of hours, so that residents can use the shops and the pubs and restaurants. That would help the centre to thrive. Some local Councillors were keen to explore the idea of placing a new primary school there, given the continuing rise in the birth rate and the enormous pressures on existing primary school places, which now means, we understand, that young children are being asked to go as far as Mitcham. 

We believed that much of the site should continue to be used for its existing permission for light industry and commerce.  No evidence has been shown that there is any less need for this, and local people need local jobs. We are constantly told that the economy will recover best through small new businesses starting up and developing.  The site is excellent for these purposes. 

Finally, if all this could be accomplished, it would be possible to consider putting a very limited number of flats there, although it is not ideal for this purpose.

Instead of the planners coming to us all to ask our views, we are now in the position yet again of having to resist and defend unacceptable proposals made by the owners, after discussion with the planners, and without input from us. What makes it even worse on this occasion is that the owners’ proposals are being presented in the form of a Merton planning brief. This is simply unacceptable as a planning process. 

The proposal is to build 250 units of residential accommodation on the site. This is almost self evidently absurd, and can only be driven by the wish of the owners to maximise the value of their land, to take the profit, and then to wash their hands of it, leaving the community to cover the costs of the new schooling and health provision needed. 

We shall resist this and any such proposal vigorously. A meeting called by the local Councillors on 10th July passed a motion to this effect.

(For the very latest news on the Rainbow Estate, click here)


The history of the LESSA site illustrates what happens when an application for housing made by land owners gets through the planners, and the land is then sold to developers. Despite the many conditions attached to the planning consent, the surrounding residents have had to fight hard to secure them. There are still ongoing concerns about whether the builders are going to complete the perimeter fencing around the whole site at the back of their gardens. One set of residents has had major flooding into their gardens caused by the lack of proper drainage of the new tennis courts. Even more worrying in the long term is that no one has come forward to maintain and use the playing fields, which was the main reason that permission was given in the first place. King’s College School, which said that it needed them, has not taken up its option to take them over. Neither has the Council.  The position remains worryingly uncertain. 


I drew attention a couple of months ago to the suggested closure of the Accident & Emergency Services, as well as the maternity unit, at St. Helier Hospital. This is still being proposed as part of an overall review of hospital services in South West London. The idea is that the services can be better run with more specialised teams at Kingston, St George’s, Croydon, and Epsom Hospitals. No one has yet explained how the travel times to these hospitals can be coped with in an emergency, and how those without private transport can get there. These hospitals have always seemed to me to be overwhelmed with patients already.   On 26th July the NHS South West London board is due to have met to finalise the recommendation. There will then public consultation in September.  There will, we think, be universal opposition from this area. 

John Elvidge 


Join us on:


Share this page: