Chairman's Blog, October 2011


I write this on a day when yet again the rain is bucketing down in this most depressing summer for weather. On a Friday two weeks ago I had just starting playing golf in bright sunshine when within 20 minutes I was drenched by stair rods of rain, and the lightning was crashing overhead. The rain streamed off Wimbledon Common and down the Ridgway. The Lower Downs Road tunnel was under 2 feet of water, and the tunnel at Raynes Park was blocked. 

It seems that this is going to be the pattern for the future. But what newcomers to this area may not appreciate is that this area is particularly prone to flooding. The Association was set up in 1928 precisely because of the flooding then occurring in West Barnes and down to Raynes Park.   The golf course which ran from the top of Parkway down to what are now the traffic lights in Grand Drive, had to relocate to New Malden, to become the Malden Golf Club, since the ground was waterlogged so often.

Large parts of our area are in a flood plain, and there have been many instances over the years of the drainage systems being unable to cope with sudden deluges of water.  This is one of the major reasons that we continue to oppose any developments on our sports fields, since they act as more gradual soakaways, and this huge benefit is lost when they are built over. The issue remains a very live one in regard to the housing proposed for the All England Ground, since water runs off Cannon Hill Common and pools exactly where they are proposing to build.  Our joint secretary, Jan Bailey, has been for years tirelessly trying to persuade the Council to maintain the ditches on the Common, which is its responsibility, but so far, the Council has avoided doing so. It has not had a qualified sewers and rivers civil engineer for the last 20 years. The Environment Agency continues to increase its calculations of the risk of flooding, and the Pyl Brook has been upgraded to show that it will flood once or more every 25 years. But no one in authority is prepared to spend the kind of money that is needed to build retention tanks that will contain excess water until it can be released slowly into the drainage systems.

Parking in and around Raynes Park

The Raynes Park Association working with the Council has produced a guide to where you can park short term in Raynes Park. It warns you to confirm its accuracy by checking the actual parking control signs.

Meanwhile plans are afoot to “consult” on further controlled parking zones in the neighbouring streets. So far the consultations have been in roads outside our immediate area, such as Abbott Avenue, Toynbee Road, and the Downs, but consultation on the areas that most affect us – those adjacent to Raynes Park town centre and which include much of West Wimbledon and some of North West Wimbledon are now underway. 

Rainbow Estate

The Council is working on a planning brief on the Rainbow Estate, which is the business estate accessed from the Grand Drive side of Raynes Park station.  It looks as if the long campaign fought by the residents to prevent this being used for a waste disposal plant has been successful. The preferred option of the Council is to maintain it for light industrial use, so as to provide local jobs and businesses. However, while that is its current designation, the site’s owners seem unable to attract tenants, and much of it is underused and frankly semi-derelict.   Some sort of car parking would be very welcome, to help in the re-generation of the local shopping and restaurant centre. This will only happen if the timing of its use is restricted to prevent it being used by commuters. We have enough traffic coming onto our roads already which is locally generated.

Road works

Why do road works take so long to complete? The closure of the junction of Coombe Lane with Copse Hill for gas works necessitates huge detours, and is taking weeks. The one in the middle of Wimbledon is taking even longer to complete and hold up the traffic for hours.   The one at the junction of Grand Drive with Heath Drive also took weeks. What is so irritating is that for days at a time nothing is happening. There is no one on the site even in the usual daylight hours of working. There is no notice on site telling you what is supposed to happen, and when the date for completion is. I wrote to the Chief Executive of Merton about the works in Grand Drive on 27th July 2011 asking him to let us know what work was due to be carried out and when it was due to be completed. I asked what arrangements the Council imposed on the working, and why it should not be continuous until it was completed.  Of course, being Merton, I have yet to receive even an acknowledgement of my letter, let alone a reply.

Customer Service

I spent 20 minutes yesterday queuing at my Bank. There were 2 tellers on duty, looking tired and harassed, and the queue had 14 people in it. The queue was as long when I left.  At the weekend I spent 20 minutes queuing at the supermarket checkout, with the same number of pressured staff and frustrated customers.  When I phone a utility company or other commercial concern, I am put on hold for endless aeons of time, with no indication that I will ever get through to anyone to talk to. All these businesses are making very good profits in this recession.  These are at the expense of their customers who are forced to put up with inferior standards of service.  Why do we, as a nation, put up with such inferior standards of customer service? How can we start a customer revolution, so that service is put before profit? Do these employers not realise that if they employed more people, the economy would recover quicker, and they would be able to make even more profit!


John Elvidge 

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