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Maintaining the facilities at Dundonald Rec

by Dundonald Lib Dems on 19/03/2012

The lack of park keepers is causing problems with access to the facilities on Dundonald Rec according to voluntary and community groups that regularly use them.

Merton Hall Road resident Anthony Fairclough notes that the Council’s response to complaints about the shortage of staff is simply to talk about their controversial plans to remove the legal protection against building on the Rec and to expand Dundonald Primary.

As Anthony says:

“Is [the Council] saying that the facilities will only be properly staffed and maintained if [the] plans to expand Dundonald school onto the Rec go ahead (in the face of massive public opposition)?”


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7 Responses

  1. Charles Barraball says:

    Have to say this is a seemingly backward step in land and transport and education planning.

    If education planning needs more space let that budget buy it from available resources, not by changes to the rules safeguarding public open space that will be for ever, even though education may have to buy land/build at market cost.

    • We agree – and once the covenant protecting Dundonald Rec is removed, what is to stop the Council coming back to expand on further parts of the Rec – especially now they’ve realised they are also going to need significant extra secondary school places.

  2. Legal protection against building on the Rec won’t be ‘removed’: the council is applying to vary the restrictive covenant on only 0.6% (that’s six one-thousandths) of the Rec.

    The restrictive covenant will remain in place for the other 99.4% of the Rec.

    In any case, the legal planning process protect the Rec as it protects all the other green space in London and the UK. The Rec does not have any less ‘protection’ than any other park in that respect.

    Lib Dems, I’m really disappointed that you’re not fighting for the education of local children. I think you’re on the wrong side of this issue. What do you say to the family living 225m from Dundonald School who have no school place for this September?

    • Thanks for your comments.

      In answer to your question, by its attempt to remove the covenant on part of the Rec, as well as its formal planning application, Merton is trying to remove the protection on building on open space – this is a fact. It may be that the Rec is no better or worse protected than other open space in London, but when it’s gone it’s gone – our planning rules state that open space should not be built on, and the Council is going against this.

      Of course, this is a separate issue from whether such is justifiable in the circumstances, but we shouldn’t be under any illusion as to what’s happening.

      On your website saveourrecproblems.wordpress.com you talk a lot about scaremongering – and we agree that this issue is too important for the debate to be hijacked by such. On that basis, I wanted to highlight one aspect of your website:

      “For September 2012, there is a family living 225m from Dundonald school who will be forced to travel 3 miles to Mitcham for their 4-year-old’s education. This is a direct result of the “Save Our Rec” campaign.”

      The bit that could be called scaremongering is highlighted. Given the Council is proceeding at its own timetable, and the need to modify the Covenant as well as the formal planning application, never mind building work, there’s no way that the school could have been expanded in time for 2012. So to lay this particular issue at the door of the Save the Rec group is not entirely fair, and would be better laid at the door of past Labour and Tory council administrations, who haven’t taken any action until now – and of course, who were involved in selling off school land in the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s.

      It’s not clear to us how opposing a controversial planning application is contrary to “fighting for education” – a number of our local branch members and supporters have been fully involved in this debate, which we thought long and hard about. Locally, we’re the only party that has been pushing for both new primary and secondary schools (and not buying into the Conservative fantasy, that a single new primary on a bit of land that Merton doesn’t own is the answer). Nearly half of Merton’s primaries have been expanded, and in due course, there will be a massive shortage of secondary places. As of yet, there is no plan to deal with this, and it’s pretty disgraceful.

      What is so depressing is that there are still people who don’t believe in the shortage of school places. We were shocked that Merton Council recently produced a list of the 50 sites it wants to see developed in the next 10 years, and set out what it would like to see built on them. On 45 of the sites, Merton wanted more housing, and yet nowhere were schools mentioned. We already have a problem with school places, and it’s disgraceful that we might be sleepwalking into making this problem worse.

      If this goes ahead, the floorspace at the expanded Dundonald will only increase by about 35%, whereas the numbers of pupils and teachers will double. The new Dundonald Primary would be a much more cramped school for everyone (ie the school will be made worse by the expansion), and then we get back into the same discussions, “couldn’t we just lose a bit more of the Rec, so that the children had more space to play . . . “

  3. R B says:

    Well that’s just a wonderful response LibDems.
    Just marvelous.

    I really love the “it’s not our fault” line – because that’s SO helpful. It really doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, or how long ago, does it. We are where we are, and constructive solutions to the problem would be so much more useful than finger pointing, don’t you think?

    We need more school places, you agree. So where would YOU suggest we find them? Bearing in mind that we need them in the next 12-18 months, not in the next 5 years?

    And in support of Stuart’s comments about the ‘Save Our Rec’ campaign being responsible for the fact that Dundonald hasn’t expanded already – it’s hardly scaremongering, is it? It’s a statement of fact (I’m acquainted with the mother concerned). And I understand it the school may have taken a bulge year prior to building works being completed (thus relieving some of the pressure on places this year,) if they had assurance that building work would be happening to accommodate the increased numbers later on. Thus the Save Our Rec Brigade and their success in delaying the process at every point have indeed contributed to making a difficult situation worse.

    Scaremongering would be, oh, I don’t know, maybe (illegally) posting fliers showing the entrance to the Rec “bricked up” and saying that it will be “destroyed” in the local area. For example. But who do we know who would DO such a thing?

    The area of the rec which will be redeveloped is 0.6%. Nought. Point. Six. It’s a tiny, tiny amount and will not in any way disrupt the usage of the area. We will gain valuable and much needed school places… It’s all be said before, but if it doesn’t fit your own agenda then it gets ignored. The thin end of the wedge argument doesn’t cut it either. The 99.4% of the Rec which is untouched is no more under threat than it ever was. An amendment to a covenant such as this does not set legal precedent and make it suddenly “fair game”. That, again, is a disingenuous and, yes – scaremongering – argument.

    And the Save our Rec gang, don’t stop at scaremongering. It seems that threats, intimidation and hounding people out of their jobs is also part of their modus operandi. Lovely lot, they really are. Sure you want to align yourselves with that kind of group? Really sure?

    A very disappointing response. Either come up with an alternative, suitable solution, or bow out of the debate, because the above attitude is not the way to win voters or solve problems.

    • Thanks for your thoughts RB; I’m not really sure why you object so much to someone pointing out why we’re in the position we’re in across the borough with regards to school places.

      Whilst undoubtably action is needed now (witness nearly half the primaries in the borough being expanded in the last 4 or so years) a longer term solution is also needed for the borough. Why is permanent expansion of existing schools the only solution offered? If you think doubling existing schools in size is a good thing in its own right (not even a necessary evil) then you should be happy with the Council’s policy. If you believe that schools might lose something in the rapid expansion, might become much more cramped places – a bit like the new Dundonald Primary will be – then you have to look towards the longer term. You also have to look towards the increased housebuilding that Merton is encouraging in the next 10 years, and what effect that’s going to have too.

      We will have to agree to disagree on whether in some way people objecting to the expansion plans has stopped a particular child getting a place this year. Prior to the legal questions being answered and the successful conclusion of planning applications, the Council could not absolutely guarantee the school that the building work would go ahead. And so whether there was opposition or not, the school was in exactly the same position it would always have been in with regards to taking a bulge year this year.

      If the Covenant can be easily modified, what is the point of it (and Upper Tribunal decisions do set a precedent, I’m afraid)? Equally, what is the point of planning rules that say no building on open space when building on open space is allowed? That also sets a precedent. When Merton tried to insert a section in the planning rules allowing building on open space for schools, why did the planning inspector strike it out? When it’s decided that the new Dundonald needs to be a bit bigger because the kids have now got much less space than they previously had, should we be happy to lose more of the Rec? When the fact that we need yet more primary places because of all the additional houses in Merton, should we be happy to lose more of the Rec to add a third or fourth form?

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