Holding plans to account is not NIMBY-ism

Numerous accusations of NIMBY-ism have been directed at residents in the Plough Lane area (like us) who have dared voice criticisms of the plans submitted by AFC Wimbledon and Galliard Homes.

Well, Team AFCW, as we have said all along, we are NOT highlighting inadequacies with this scheme because we are anti-football. Instead, we are concerned that any plans approved by Merton Borough Council should be both fit for purpose and appropriate for this site.

So to all those football fans who have dismissed our criticisms simply as NIMBY-ism, we would point out that every issue we have raised – flood risk, traffic planning, transport issues, community engagement, infrastructure – has been echoed by the major statutory consultees.

And that is why AFC Wimbledon and its developer partners have been forced to revisit almost every area of the application since all its thousands of pages of documentation were submitted (with what many have called cynical timing) just before Christmas.

As has been pointed out by some commentators in their submissions to the council and on social media, in an ideal world, Merton would have a 10- or 20-year plan for the borough which could properly facilitate this type of development in line with the infrastructure requirements to make it work in the interests of all stakeholders. Unfortunately, Merton does not have a long-term plan, so one must conclude that councillors instead make decisions to further their political goals rather than in the interests of responsible and sustainable development.

As one local residents’ association, the WEHRA says in its submission: “We are happy to embrace changes to our area that are thoughtfully developed and well executed. There is always some give and take in the process; sadly, with this application, there is all TAKE and little GIVE.

“We want a professional, future-focused Regeneration Plan for the Plough Lane Industrial Area.”

Indeed, this poorly thought-out application has been facilitated by LB Merton against the wishes of many local residents (we don’t remember being consulted on the future of Plough Lane before AFCW’s proposals came along, do you?) and the inability on the part of the applicants to demonstrate any strong sustainability.

The slapdash approach to documentation and sheer lack of detail on the impact of what the club is proposing indicates an unhealthy collusion between the parties. It would appear that AFC Wimbledon were so sure of approval from council planners that they barely bothered to tick the boxes that would ensure their application was acceptable.

Merton councillor ‘naive’ about effects of stadium development

The WEHRA expresses it as follows: “Merton Regeneration and Sustainability Manager [see below] appears to be urging Merton Planning Officers to find ways through the hurdles; surely the right approach is to seek to have the applicant CLEAR THE HURDLES carefully established by the London Plan, TfL and the Environment Agency.”

Fortunately, this approach is being picked up on by the stakeholders, and the weaknesses and inadequacies of the supporting documentation are being exposed on an ongoing basis.

A commenter on the Streetlife website agrees with the WEHRA, putting the blame for this fiasco of a planning process squarely at the feet of former council leader and Wimbledon’s wannabe Labour MP Andrew Judge.

He writes: “Let’s be clear, this aspiring MP is currently LB Merton’s cabinet member for Environmental Sustainability and Regeneration and for him, timing is everything. The problem is that he’s focused on the short term for obvious reasons. It would appear his public support for Galliard/AFCW’s planning application is as strong as his disdain for any residents or businesses likely to be affected by this planning application in the long term.

“This proposal has quite rightly been heavily criticised by the neighbouring Wandsworth councillors, the GLA, EA, TfL, the London Assembly member and the local residents associations because it’ll be all of them who’ll suffer the impact and pick up the pieces if it’s approved by Merton. These are not NIMBYs, these are well informed statutory consultees, all clamouring for responsible, sustainable development and being made to spend time appraising an inappropriate and inadequate development proposal supported and promoted by Andrew Judge.

“Have his short term personal ambitions and allegiances overtaken his public responsibilities to the residents of Merton?”