Chairman's Blog, July 11


There is very severe pressure for parents trying to find primary school places for their children in this area. The pressure is actually going to get significantly worse by 2014 due to the 30% rise in places needed due to the rate of births in Merton since 2009. The trend continues upward.

The Council has attempted to meet the urgent need by expanding existing primary schools, but there are physical limits to the ability to do this. The increasing demand for places has meant that the catchment area for existing schools has shrunk, and this has left gaps in provision, one of which exists in the area to the south of Raynes Park station, stretching across to Motspur Park station.

The Government has made it easier to provide new “free” schools, and a local church has come forward to propose a new 2-form entry primary school in a building near Motpsur Park station. They want to open it by 2012.  It is an evangelical church called Doxa Deo which meets at the David Lloyd Centre every Sunday. Residents may have seen its large advertisement at Raynes Park station.  We understand that the Church was founded in South Africa, but has set up such schools both there and in New Zealand.  

Although it is a Christian church, in order to obtain Department of Education status, its teaching would have to conform to the national curriculum and to include a broad education about all the religions of the world. It would have to encourage applications from pupils of all denominations.  On this basis we have welcomed their proposals as filling a real need in educational provision in this area.



The shortage of places for primary school pupils shows up yet again the absurdity of our planning laws, which grant permission for multiple applications for residential developments, without any regard at all to the burdens that will be placed on local facilities.  It is remarkable but true that the planning committee, in making a decision on the merits of a planning application, is not entitled to take into account the numbers of other such developments given permission in the surrounding area, or the numbers of such other applications that are likely to be made shortly. It cannot for example, refuse an application owing to the number of extra vehicle movements that will be occasioned, when taken together with the number caused by other new developments, and the fact that the roads cannot cope at present with the numbers of vehicle movements.   It can only judge the application on its own merits as a building on environmental and access grounds.

As we all know, this area has been swamped by new buildings in the past ten years, many of which will come into use over the next three years. These are for flats, town houses, and larger houses, and will be for private occupation as well as by tenants of housing associations.  No estimate has been made as to the likely age range of the occupiers, but it is likely that very many will have children of school age, and that many more will be elderly. All of them will need NHS doctors and the services of hospitals.  On Grand Drive alone, there is the Royal and Sun Alliance site off Fairway, the LESSA site, and the St Catherine’s site. There is an outstanding application to build on the Raynes Park Playing Fields.  The flats have just opened in the Waitrose development in the town centre.  Adding to these major developments is the steady stream of maisonette and flat conversions from larger houses. The numbers of people living here will increase by some thousands in a few years.

The developers do not have to make any estimate of the services that the occupiers will need.  It is simply expected that the Council and the NHS will make whatever extra provision is needed in due time.  The only concession to this is that developers have to make a Section 106 cash contribution, which does not, in fact, even have to be used in the immediate area. This cash contribution is miniscule in comparison to the costs of the capital needed to extend existing schools, medical practices, hospitals or old people’s homes.

The Government is always keen to allow more housing to be built in the London area.  I believe firmly that developers should be required to make a vastly greater cash contribution that they do at present, and that the money should be ring-fenced and hypothecated for the provision of public improvements within the immediate area. 



Our new Mayor and Merton’s first citizen is Gilli Lewis-Lavender, who is a West Barnes Councillor. She invited a number of local residents to her official Reception which was held in mid-June in the lovely grounds of Morden Park House.  The evening was memorable for me, and probably for others, for the serene and untroubled way in which she, dressed in her Mayoral robes, and with her official consort and husband, Brian, greeted all her guests at the gates for over an hour while the rain poured down on them. It reminded me inevitably of Queen Salote of Tonga who famously chose to ride to the Queen’s Coronation in an open carriage, waving delightedly to the crowds, while the heavens opened. 

She has a great range of events proposed for her Mayoral year, the proceeds from which will go to support her many charities. For more information, or to book any of them, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 0208 545 3517.  She is tremendously enthusiastic, so please give her every support.


John Elvidge

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