Merton Council set out plans to expand Dundonald Primary [updated]

by Dundonald Lib Dems on 11/05/2012

Merton Council have submitted a planning application to expand Dundonald Primary. As well as refurbishing the existing school building, the pavilion will be demolished, and a new two storey extension to the school will be built “partly sited on Dundonald Recreation Ground”. There is a legal protection against building on the Rec that Merton Council is currently challenging in a specialist Court – the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). The Council can only go ahead if they have this legal protection removed. The process is complicated and the Council also has to make a formal planning application.

What next? To see the planning application and all the relevant documents, search for Application number 12/P1058 on Merton’s Planning Explorer Website.

Make sure you have your say: The deadline for comments is 30 May [previously 24 May]. Write to Sabah Halli, Planning Department, London Borough of Merton, Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden, SM4 5DX, quoting the application number above and including your name, address and the planning application description given on the website. Or email your thoughts on the plans to [email protected]

Remember: The Council’s planning department simply decides whether an application is within the planning rules. So where possible try to refer to the relevant rules – search online for  Merton’s “LDF Core Planning Strategy”; the London Plan 2011 and the National Planning Policy Framework 2012. Don’t forget to let us know what you said: [email protected].

What we think about this planning application

During the ‘80s, ‘90s & 2000s, Merton council sold off schools and playing fields, land that could have been used now to meet the need for school places. But that doesn’t mean that we should now sacrifice our parks and local spaces. When they’re gone they’re gone – and this planning application could be the start of a very slippery slope.

We were shocked that when Merton Council recently produced a list of the 50 sites to be developed over the next 10 years, on 45 of the sites, it wanted more housing, and yet nowhere were schools mentioned. Merton already has a problem with school places, and it’s disgraceful that we might be sleepwalking into making this problem worse.

We are hugely disappointed that there are still people who don’t accept that there’s a massive shortage in school places, and that action needs to be taken, but that doesn’t mean we should support every attempt to expand existing schools. Dundonald Lib Dem branch members and supporters have discussed this issue long and hard.

1. It will reduce open space and access to the Rec facilities

The Council’s planning application admits that it is not possible to expand the school within the existing grounds, and that part of the Rec will be incorporated into the school if the application goes ahead. In order to do this, Merton’s Labour administration is seeking to remove the legal protection against development on the Rec. But the planning rules say Merton will “protect and enhance the borough’s public and private open space” (Policy CS 13).
When the Council originally sought to include an exception to the planning rules to allow new school buildings on existing parks and open spaces, the Planning Inspector – who determines if the planning rules are legal – rejected their reasons.

The replacement tennis courts/games area will only be available to the public outside of school hours – instead of at any time during the day, as is currently the case.

2. It could increase parking and traffic problems

The new school will have double the number of pupils and teachers. The planning application says that after the development, “two way trips” (ie there and back!) by car drivers are expected be about 330 on an average day, an increase of 147 vehicles.

3. There will be less space for children at Dundonald Primary

We think that schools should stay a good size, and that we can’t just keep expanding existing schools again and again, and not expect this to impact on the quality of the education at the school

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 will much more cramped, and then we get back into the same discussions, “can’t we just lose a bit more of the Rec, so that the children have more space to play …”

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