Chairman' Blog - March 2011

The Rainbow Estate

We spend much of our time embattled in trying to prevent unsuitable development on green field sites.  Our current concerns are to ensure that the development on the LESSA site can only go ahead strictly in accordance with the planning conditions; and to try and prevent any development on the Raynes Park Playing Fields, which is covered by detailed notes in this and last month’s Guides.

Sometimes it’s good to stand back and remind ourselves of a battle that local residents did win, which has been a source of major concern over the last couple of years.  This was the proposal to build an anaerobic digester on the Rainbow Estate on the Grand Drive side of Raynes Park station. We argued that the technology involved in this process for disposing of food waste was not yet developed enough to make it safe to put near housing; and that the volume of lorries carrying the food in and the residues out would be bound to increase yet further the volumes of traffic on an already over congested road network.

We are pleased that this is no longer a site being considered by the South London Waste plan, so that residents can rest more easily, at least for the moment. The sites being considered in Merton are at the Garth Road Industrial Area, and at the Willow Lane and Durnsford Road Industrial Areas.

What we argued at the time, and what is now still essential, is for the planners to consult the local community on what should go on this land.  Anyone who has been there, usually to get plumbing supplies, knows that there is a large amount of industrial space, which is in a semi derelict condition apart from two or three businesses.  It is difficult of access, being bounded by the railway tracks, but, given its proximity to the station, should be capable of much better use than at present.  Suggestions include extra parking for shoppers, NOT commuters, a new primary school given the urgent need to increase school places, and even housing. 

The planning department needs to create a plan for this site, and then only to accept planning applications that meet the objectives wanted.

Planning Consultation with Residents

More generally, we need to move the Planning Department away from feeling that they are bound to accept any application that is made to them, and even that they have to have detailed pre-application discussions on it with developers even before residents are told of its existence.

We pay for the planning services of the Council, and they ought to lay down in a borough plan only that which is acceptable to local residents. A prime example is that of the Raynes Park Playing Fields.  The Council ought to have it absolutely clear that no development at all should be permitted on this site, both because the Fields are needed for sport, but also, simply because the roads, sewers, and water courses in the area are all at saturation point, and do not allow any further development.

There is some hope that the Government is moving towards this idea. Planning guidance now states that planning authorities should ensure that communities are able to be involved in development proposals, at an early stage, and that it is not sufficient to invite them to comment only once proposals have been worked up. Pre-election promises by the national parties were made that significant projects should involve the local community. The Wimbledon Society reported that the current Leader of the Council wrote to them in his responses to their pre-election questions that “We would… seek... to ensure that pre-application discussions are fully informed by residents’ views and concerns”. 

We hope that this is a pre-election promise that will not be broken. 

Fishing on Cannon Hill Common

In the letters section, there is a letter from Merton’s “Greenspaces Manager” (What was wrong with the title of Director of Parks?) about fishing at Cannon Hill Common Lake. This was in response to the petition signed by many people concerned at the effect of unregulated fishing on wildlife and amenities generally.  The birdlife has diminished rapidly, because fishing has been totally uncontrolled. You will see that the Council is still proposing an angling club, but that there has been no progress on this since it was first suggested two years ago.

I have little confidence that this kind of self- regulation can work.  But, if it is to be tried, please get on with it!

Meanwhile, The National Trust has announced that Watermeads has been restocked with fish by the Environment Agency; has new facilities for the disabled, and is open to anglers for business.

Add this to the facilities on the Wandle at Morden Hall and it is clear why Morden Hall Park Angling Club is happy. In addition, it gives the lie to claims by Merton Council, the Environment Agency and  the River Authorities that there are no facilities other than Cannon Hill common for the deprived of other Boroughs.


Please do come to our AGM at the Raynes Park Library meeting rooms (entrance at the rear of the Library) on 30th March at 7.30.  We hope that our MP, Stephen Hammond, will be able to come. The formal part of the meeting only takes a few minutes, and then it’s open for general discussion. I promise you that it’s not a dry event - indeed there’ll be some wines and nibbles afterwards. 

John Elvidge

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