Chairman's Blog - March 2013

Raynes Park Lawn Tennis Club is moving to its new home down Grand Drive from May 1st, where it will have 5 state of the art tennis courts and a new pavilion. We wish it well.  The Club will no longer need its existing pavilion at 129 Grand Drive, which services its existing 3 courts.  This creates an exciting opportunity for the Association to turn it into a community hall for general use. The Club is one of the many social and sporting organisations that set up under the umbrella of the Residents’ Association.  The Association was formed in 1928 by the people buying the new houses built here as part of the vast expansion of London suburbs between the wars. The people coming to Raynes Park and West Barnes were energetic and youthful, and, before the advent of TV and computers, made their own entertainment. They founded a multitude of active clubs and societies.
Some of these groups still exist, such as the horticultural society, the bowling and swimming clubs, and the West Barnes Singers. Others, such as the photographic society, fell by the wayside as people’s leisure interests changed. Older members can still remember when the Association organised a children’s party at Christmas, and even dinner dances!
The dream always was that the Association would be able to have a community hall of its own, which could be used by all these groups, and for all the other meetings and gatherings that local people wanted to organise. Over the years money was gathered to pay for such a hall, and a substantial sum was raised with a view to building our own Centre. These funds are still available though they are well short of what would be required these days for a new building.  We could not afford this.
But now we have in this area a great increase in the number of young children, and a community hall is needed for mother and toddler groups, nursery groups, and other activities for younger children. Our community is at the same time living longer, and older people would like to have warm and comfortable surroundings where they could go to meet their friends for a coffee and a chat, play card games, or listen to a talk.
The pavilion was built well over 40 years ago, along with the 3 existing courts. These are reached by a walkway off Grand Drive and via a path from Crossway.  Despite its age the pavilion is in pretty good condition, and has been lovingly maintained over the years.  It is already designated in planning terms for public use. The building is sound, but it is obviously a pavilion.  It would be necessary to update the kitchen and toilets, put in year round heating, improve the windows, and refurbish and redecorate it.
The Committee has made no decisions, other than this is an opportunity that should be explored in detail.  We are not spending any money at this stage, but the Committee is drawing up a list of what needs to be done to bring it up to 21st century standards. We then aim to seek quotations from reputable builders as to the likely cost. It may be that we can afford the capital costs; it may be that we cannot, but we ought to find out.
We also need to work out how such a hall would be managed.  We would need a small group of people to manage it, e.g. the opening and closing, keeping an eye on the maintenance, and taking the bookings.
The running costs of the building, such as heating and cleaning, need not be great, but we would need to ensure financial viability. Clearly, the more we can do for ourselves the better. Some extra hands to help with these additional tasks would be greatly welcomed.
We also need to assess also what groups would want to use it, for a small fee that would help meet the running costs.  If you are interested in using the building, or know someone who might be, please let us know by clicking here for further details and for the link to send us your suggestions.
We are not thinking of extending the size of the existing pavilion, so that the tennis courts will remain, either for use as overflow courts for the tennis club, or for use for coaching. It may be that in time, one or more of them could be converted for use as a playground for young children, or used for other sports.
We hope to bring these proposals, with some initial costs, to the AGM on Wednesday 20th March so that residents, including, of course, those whose houses back onto the site can let us know what they think before we commit ourselves in any way.
Residents will remember that it was only a couple of years ago that the very popular and well used post office in Coombe Lane was closed down as part of the cost cutting of Royal Mail. It was said to be within a mile of the main post office in Amity Grove in the centre of Raynes Park, and so not necessary. This office is a Crown office, which is directly owned by Royal Mail, and does nothing else.  Now we learn that the Raynes Park office is under threat, and may itself be closed, unless it can be franchised as part of another retail store. You do wonder why Royal Mail is still, we are told, losing £40 million per annum, when they continue to have a monopoly over postal services, and stamps now cost a minimum of 50 pence. We will add our voice to the very many people who want and need a main post office in the centre of Raynes Park. A 6 week consultation is being planned to gather local views.
We reported last year that there were plans to stop through trains running across London from South Merton, Wimbledon Chase, and Wimbledon on the loop line to St.Paul’s, Farringdon, St. Pancras and through to Luton and Bedford.  Instead it was being proposed that they would all stop at Blackfriars after 2018 where you’d have to change and wait.  This proposal was opposed by not only us, but all the political parties, as well as Stephen Hammond, the MP for Wimbledon.  We are very pleased that the Government has now instructed Network Rail to ensure that the rail service remains intact.
The Annual General Meeting of the Association is being held at the Meeting Hall behind Raynes Park Library on Wednesday March 20, starting at 7.30 pm. We hope that Stephen Hammond will be able to attend at the beginning of the meeting. After the formalities, we will have a chance to talk through other local issues, including our suggestions for a community hall of our own. Do come. We’ll even give you a glass of wine! Click here for the agenda.
John Elvidge

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