Chairman's Blog - December 2014


We were alerted by a resident in Elm Walk to a planning application for a basement extension to a house in her road.  This is a particularly sensitive area in view of the flooding that happens on Raynes Park Playing Field, which one side of the road  backs on to. 

We know that other such extensions have been given approval in Merton, particularly in Wimbledon Village, but there is another example locally in the neighbouring street in Parkway. We also understand that such applications are rife in central London, and cause great concern to other householders, who face months of building chaos and road blockages, and have real fears for the structure of their own properties. 

We decided that we ought to investigate the extent to which the Council control and monitor such developments.  

It turns out that the planning department has a short policy which covers basement and subterranean developments. Among other things, there is a requirement that they have to be wholly confined within the curtilage of the application property, and be designed to maintain and safeguard the structural stability of the house in question and its neighbours. It cannot exceed 50% of either the front, rear, or side garden or result in the garden that is left not being a usable single area. There must be no damage or threat of damage to trees of amenity value.  Anything that is visible externally must be designed so as to avoid any harmful visual impact on a neighbour. 

The Council also requires an assessment of the impacts of the scheme on flooding from all sources, groundwater conditions, drainage, and ground stability. 

We assume that the responsibility for checking these matters,  as the building progresses, rests with the building control section of the Council, which also checks that the general building regulations are complied with.  

Further, we assume that any such application would have to be approved in advance by neighbours under the Party Wall act. 

We believe that a general principle arises in this case, given the relatively small size of the property, and have asked the planning officers to look at it most carefully. We have put in a formal objection, and we understand that it may be called in for decision by the whole planning committee. If it were to be approved, then conditions should be set on the schedule of works, given that Elm Walk is a narrow street, with parking on both sides, and is used as a rat run for traffic escaping from Grand Drive.


The Council has stated that they need to make £32 million savings over the next four years.  One of the areas they are looking at is that of adult education. This is because the funding is not statutory, i.e. funding which they are bound to provide, but discretionary.  

Merton has had a very good record of providing adult education, which has been maintained by successive councils. It would be a great pity if this were now to be eroded in any major way.  The Council has started a consultation which continues until 4 January 2015, which asks for views on how best to deliver “a successful and financially sustainable” adult education service. It can be filled in on line and there are paper copies in the libraries and adult education sites. 

The Council says that it has ruled out stopping the service altogether but that the cabinet wants to become a commissioner of adult education services, agreeing a contract with other education providers to deliver adult learning on the council’s behalf.  It will not make a final decision until the consultation has been considered. 

As the main centre is in Whatley Avenue, just off Martin Way, this is of real concern to local residents, many of whom over the years have enjoyed and benefited from the courses and the companionship of those taking them. We hope that as many people as possible will express to the Council the importance of continuing as wide a range of courses as possible. 

At the moment Merton Adult Education has over 5,000 students, and 487 courses. 

The idea of commissioning services is one that the Council is suggesting in other areas also, such as the running of parks and refuse collection. The idea is, obviously, that money can be saved by running operations over a wider area than in just one borough.   However, my own experience is that the suggested management savings are often illusory or non- existent, and that the service provision always suffers markedly. Let’s hope the Council has another think.  


We hope to see as many people as possible as our Christmas Party which will be held in the Residents’ Pavilion at 129 Grand Drive on Tuesday 16th December. There’s a short open meeting, which starts at 8 pm, but the party will be in full swing from 9. There’s be wine and mulled wine, mince pies and other Christmas niceties. Do come - you’ll be very welcome. 

John Elvidge, Chairman.

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