Tag Archives: housing

Merton gets go-ahead on AFCW stadium plans

Development plans for Wimbledon Stadium will NOT be called in by the Secretary of State, Merton Council was informed today.

That means building work can begin on the 10k-seat football stadium, 600+ home enabling development, new squash club and retail unit.

We wish AFC Wimbledon good luck with their project, and only hope that traffic, flooding and infrastructure matters are managed well enough to minimize problems and maximise benefits to the local area where, let’s face it, we already suffer enough with road congestion and air pollution.

One good thing that has come out of the planning process so far is that the football club does seem to have increased its involvement in the local community, with a more frequent presence at local charity events and providing training in schools.

It has also been an eye-opener as to how Merton Council does business, and we can only hope that our elected councillors and taxpayer-funded council officers draw some lessons from the benefits that could be gained from adopting a more transparent way of dealing with residents in future.

We reserve the right to continue keeping residents informed on progress at the Plough Lane site, as a new facility rises from the ashes of the historic Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium. In the meantime, over and out!

Sadiq Khan: sticking up for residents

A little reminder that as MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan was happy to stand up for residents over worries about the implications of a large-scale housing development and football stadium on the borders of his Tooting ward.

The letter he submitted to Merton about the AFCW/Galliards application can be read here: http://www.sadiqkhan.org.uk/have_your_say_on_the_future_of_plough_lane_sw19

It would be interesting to know the views of his successor as MP for Tooting, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan. From posts on her website and Twitter feed, affordable housing, local transport issues including train capacity and Crossrail 2, and air quality feature among her interests: all relevant to the Plough Lane application.


The mystery of how Merton does its business…

A brief summary of the current situation for those watching developments in the saga of Plough Lane:

AFC Wimbledon is awaiting final go ahead from the Mayor of London to set up home there; greyhound fans are upset that they will be turfed out of London’s last remaining racing track; the stock car community is fed up that they will lose their Sunday night sport; and Galliard Homes want to build a dense 602-home development on part of the site with a minimal offering of less than 10% affordable housing.

Merton Borough Council approved theAFCW and Galliard Homes plans back in December, but the ‘SaveWimbledon’ consortium, as the stock car racing community have styled themselves, believe that the decision was taken in haste and without due consideration of other sports currently using the site.

They say of the December planning meeting: “Further reading through the 266 page transcript and viewing of the webcast of the meeting have highlighted a number of areas of concern.”

As a result, they say, they have lodged a procedural complaint with Merton Borough Council, adding:  “On the basis of our experience to date, we fully expect our complaint to be rejected by Council Leader Steve Alambritis, in which case we will continue to respect the formal process and simply raise our concerns further up the democratic line.”

Concerns about the way Merton’s planning department operates are not limited to the Plough Lane redevelopment. Other community groups ( RavensburyGrove    @MitchamCrktGrn )have expressed dissatisfaction with the partisan approach taken to applications by planning officers who, when presenting them to the planning committee, appear to act more as advocates for the developers than independent assessors. In addition, concerns have been voiced about the way the council handles consultation processes, and the way council reports seem to parrot developers’ proposals.

It’s what Cllr Alambritis calls “taking a businesslike approach” for the council, often through its futureMerton team, to work with the commercial sector in order to make sure our borough gets the best outcomes, but it is a relationship that requires close scrutiny in order to ensure that democratic processes are not neglected.

That level of scrutiny appears to be lacking in Merton at present. For example, what are the terms of reference under which futureMerton, part of Cllr Andrew Judge’s environment and regeneration department, operates? Who runs it? What are they working on at present?

futureMerton has its own page on the council’s website but it carries a distinct whiff of tumbleweed: “This web page is under development for summer 2013. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter @futureMerton ”

The @futureMerton twitter feed is a ghost town with no tweets, followers, media, likes… nada.

We as residents pay for these services, why are kept in the dark about what they are up to?

Summerstown: the Volante site

Volante, which owns a patch of land on the edge of the Wimbledon Stadium car park, fronting Summerstown, has submitted plans to vacate the site and replace it with a nine-storey block of flats.

The planning application includes basement parking, a children’s play area and a healthcare facility (GP surgery and pharmacy), 112 homes and 23 parking spaces.

The deadline for representations is January 29, 2016.

Of note, is the applicant’s enlightened approach to consultation, whereby they held a couple of open sessions, delivered leaflets to nearby homes and doorknocked the surrounding area to seek views. Opinions (including negatives) are collated in a consultation document published alongside other planning documents on the council’s website.

Interesting that a relatively small development like this one can tick so many boxes (healthcare facility, a transparent consultation process, play area) where Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon failed on their application. But if the result is a foregone conclusion, what’s the point in going the extra mile?

Plough Lane: a blatant case of predetermination?


What to do next?

If you’re unhappy about Merton’s decision to give planning approval for AFC Wimbledon’s 20,000-seat stadium with enabling development of 602 homes, you have a number of options for voicing your views.

  1. If you are a stock racing enthusiast, upset at losing your base in Plough Lane when the greyhound stadium is bulldozed,  there’s a petition you can sign. More than 2,000 people signed within a day of it being launched. Add your name here:  https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-mayor-of-london-save-wimbledon-stadium-stock-car-racing-in-london
  2. If you’re worried about the volte face over flood categorisation by the Environment Agency (a revised report from the EA was apparently available to planners and applicants as long ago as June, although its existence was not announced nor was it issued for public scrutiny), you could write to the Environment Agency stating your concerns. Email address is enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk  Case no is 151215/ER08 ‘floodplain categorisation of Plough Lane site’. You might want to ask whether climate change and recent flooding in Cumbria are going to lead to another recategorisation of floodplains across the country. You might want to know why the revised Plough Lane report was kept under wraps.
  3. Let your local councillors know if you are unhappy with the way the case was dealt with by the Merton Planning department. We felt the officer introducing the application at Thursday’s hearing effectively promoted it on behalf of the applicants rather than presenting it in a neutral manner. If this is how officers behaved behind the scenes while the development was being evaluated, we worry that insufficient scrutiny was applied.
  4. If you feel that procedures were improperly followed, complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. You might feel that predetermination was an issue, that certain decisions were made behind closed doors, that the council behaved improperly (eg ‘letter-gate‘), perhaps that councillors with links to AFC Wimbledon failed to declare an interest before the application was heard, or that including an extra letter purporting to be from the Wimbledon Park Residents Association in the final officers’ report was a deliberate act (as believed by one influential AFCW supporters’ blog) etc etc. You can find out how to go about approaching the Local Government Ombudsman here.
  5. The size and nature of the Plough Lane development means it has to  be ratified by the Mayor’s office before approval is 100% decided. Share your views with your Greater London Authority representative. For Merton and Wandsworth, this is Richard Tracey: richard.tracey@london.gov.uk

Anyone got more ideas or information: please get in touch! Twitter @SW19Stadium

Things we now know – and many we don’t

All 10 councillors on Merton’s planning committee voted last night in favour of development plans for AFC Wimbledon and Galliard Homes to build a stadium and high density housing development on the site of the current greyhound stadium.

It was a well-run meeting, with council members given the chance to ask questions on all aspects of the scheme. The only real hiccups were: a problem with the webcast which meant proceedings could be heard but not seen on the big screen set up as an overflow in the council’s lobby area; and an intermittent fault that meant the Chamber of Commerce chairman couldn’t be heard via his microphone, but as a bit-part player that was of little consequence.

AFC Wimbledon is undoubtedly already starting to further flesh out its detailed plans for the site, which will start off as an 11,000-seater stadium. Galliard Homes are probably already devising ways to market their 602-apartment development to customers in the Far East.

Meanwhile, we folks who live in the Plough Lane area are wondering :

  1. how our neighbourhood is going to cope with all the inevitable extra parking, road, rail and pavement traffic, and
  2. how Merton’s Labour Party members can live with themselves for conspiring to allow a billionaire property co to offer a paltry 9.6% in affordable housing, when the borough target is 40%.

Answers to both these questions were clearly lacking at last night’s planning meeting.


Decision day approaches!

So the day when Merton planners will make a decision on the Plough Lane development approaches – but not without an administrative hiccup.

The application goes before councillors on Thursday December 10th, with the meeting simultaneously being webcast for those who can’t make the meeting at City Hall in Merton (which is likely to be packed).

Everyone who submitted a comment on the plans (including, presumably, all those AFCW supporters who emailed in helpfully commenting simply  ‘Come On You Dons!’ COYD) was sent a letter by the council at the end of last week inviting them to submit a request to speak at the meeting. But the letter failed to mention the date of the meeting, and it also stated that a council report on the application recommended ‘Withdrawn Decision’. Planning officers do in fact recommend that the application be approved.

Whoops! The level of council incompetence would actually be quite amusing were it not for the amount it has cost Merton taxpayers: every letter (some 6,000 of them) had to be resent first class to ensure we all got the correct version a day later.

Doesn’t fill you with confidence about the amount of t crossing and i dotting that has gone on with this application, does it, if something as simple as an informational letter can go out carrying such basic mistakes…?

Perhaps council officers haven’t noticed either that the developers are trying to get away with offering just 9.6% affordable housing when the council standard is 40%?