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August 2013

 

Planning Application for 85 flats on the Wolfson site, Copse Hill (Planning application 16/P4853)

Currently Berkeley Homes has approval for 16 houses  blocks, including one which is 6 storeys high and another 5 storeys high. There would be 96 parking spaces, with 86 of these in a semi-underground car park. The proposed development is of such height and density that it would only be appropriate in a town centre location with good transport links. This application is for a development in a conservation area, immediately adjacent to Metropolitan Open Land and to a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, and with poor transport links. As such it represents an enormous threat to our local area and would set a very dangerous precedent.

The application includes proposals for privileged access for the residents of the development into Morley Park. A gate from a private residents' garden would open onto a path leading to a landscaped area of this public park. Part of the land already agreed to be transferred to the Council as part of Morley Park is now proposed for inclusion in this development site ('Woolfson Lawn'), thus delaying its transfer by several years.

You can see the plans on Merton Council's Planning Explorer site. To start with you will need to put the planning application reference set out above in the search box to locate the application and then if you click on 'View Related Documents' it will take you to a web page which lists all the planning documents that you can view.

Some of the points raised in LUNG's letter of objection are summarised below:

  • The proposals represent severe over-development of the site and greatly exceed the density that is deemed acceptable in planning guidance.

  • The height and mass of the 5 and 6 storey blocks, would be extremely detrimental to the views from the park and would dominate the skyline.

  • The proposed development is in the Copse Hill Conservation Area. The character assessment for the conservation area describes it as having a semi-rural character.

  • The windows, balconies and roof terraces would overlook the Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and cause light pollution and disturbance to the wildlife.

  • It is not acceptable to have privileged private access onto a public park. This unwelcome proposal would enhance the value of the new flats but be detrimental to the park.

  • The Wolfson Lawn should be excluded from the development site and transferred to the Council at the same time as the rest of Morley Park, in line with the existing agreement.

  • The large semi-underground car park would pose an additional threat of flooding downhill of the development site.

  • There would be a serious impact on traffic, especially at local road junctions which are already prone to long queues, and a knock on effect on air quality.

*******************

Berkeley Homes has held an exhibition to present revised plans for the hospital site to local residents prior to submitting a planning application. There is a second chance to go to this exhibition and speak to Berkeley Homes' representatives on Thursday 22 August 2013 between 4.30 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. at Wimbledon Hill Park, Project Office, Copse Hill. This is just behind the new 200 bus stop.

Berkeley Homes advises that the revised plans have been made necessary by higher than expected costs to restore the old hospital building. Higher than expected costs are neither unusual nor a valid justification for a planning application which should be considered on its own merits against planning guidance.

Link to plans displayed at exhibition

Summary of the plans:

  • Two 5 storey apartment blocks (15 apartments in each) will replace the 8 houses in the previously approved application at the rear of the old hospital building. This would take the total number of residential units on the Firs and hospital sites to 101. The currently approved application is for 79 residential units and the scheme previously approved in 2005 had 94 residential units.

  • The underground parking approved at the front of the site (56 parking spaces) is replaced by a partially underground car park (82? parking spaces) at the rear of the hospital building.

  • Access to the car park is via a road which would be shared with pedestrians and cyclists accessing Morley Park.

  • The car park and the eastern apartment block intrude into Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and elsewhere are built up to the MOL boundary.

  • There is a courtyard between the two apartment blocks on top of the proposed car park.

 

June 2012  

Morley Park Trust has met with the Council and Ursuline High School to learn about the school’s requirements for use of the playing fields and the Council’s latest proposals to procure the management of the park. The Council is currently discussing 2 options for the contractual arrangement with the school – either a 99 year lease (the Council’s standard duration for a lease), or a block booking arrangement, as is used elsewhere for schools using council-managed playing fields in parks. The headmistress has stated a preference for a 99 year lease. However, the school’s current plans for use of the playing fields are limited to school hours for a total of 18 weeks a year, so for the rest of the time they would be assuming a facilities management role for the sporting facilities. Our experience with the adjacent Oberon playing fields, managed on a similar basis, leaves us very concerned at the prospect of a long lease to a minority user of the Morley Park facilities. The playing fields are in a public park, not in a fenced off area to be accessed only by those who book the facilities. There is a need to ensure the holistic management of Morley Park, including the ecological area and woodland. Morley Park Trust has written to the Council seeking clarification and reassurance about the future management of the whole park.

The Wolfson site was sold to Berkeley Homes in March 2012. On 20th June 4.30-8pm, Berkeley Homes held a site re-development consultation at St. Matthew's Primary School to discuss their plans. They propose to submit a planning application to build 8 detached houses on the site.

Some of you may have noticed that the proposed name for the new Berkeley Homes development has been changed from Wellington Gate to Wimbledon Hill Park. This is confusing as neither Wimbledon Hill nor Wimbledon Park are nearby! Wellington did at least provide a link with the past, but the new name lacks any connection with the local history, geography or Morley Park.  We have asked BH about it but not been given any reason for the new name. 
 

May 2012  

We are very surprised, and concerned, that the Council has approved a design for the path into Morley Park from Copse Hill which includes a flight of 30 steep steps.  This would be unusable for pushchairs and people with a disability. It would be dangerous for everyone in severe winter conditions. Morley Park Trust has sent a letter to the Council requesting a quick rethink on the design of this route, which under current plans will be the only path onto the park from Copse Hill.
 

April 2012  

LUNG is working with the Council and prospective park users so we can develop our plans to the point where we can make a formal bid to manage the park.  As a part of this we organised a Morley Park Walk and Exhibition on Sunday 29th April to show people the site, explain the plans so far, answer questions, and gather support. 

Click here for further details and photos of the event.
 

Jan 2012  

At the cabinet meeting on 16th January, Merton Council considered an initial paper on on the future options to manage Morley Park. The paper's general recommendations were approved but these do not make a specific recommendation as to who should manage the park. There will be another council paper on community trusts in the summer, and the council has yet to establish the process by which the management of the park will be determined, so we do not know when the process will be complete. 

The physical work needed to implement the park plans (restoration of the playing fields, building the new cottage and pavilion, fencing etc), will start this summer and it is expected that it will be complete in Sept 2013. When the works are signed off as complying with specifications the freehold of the park area will pass to the council, and if the long-term management has not been determined, the default position is that it will be managed by the council.  

What was established at the cabinet meeting is that the council:

  • has decided that the Ursuline school is the local state school most in need of the playing fields, that it should be the main user of the sports facilities, and that they will consider granting the school a lease for the sports facilities.
  • that the process for selecting the management model for the park should be reasonable, fair and transparent.

The cabinet paper describes 3 options for the overall management of the site:

  • management by the council
    (default position)
  • management by a community trust
  • management by a 'single sports or educational establishment'

The author of the paper is a council officer in the department that would be responsible for the management if the council was selected to manage it. 

Surprisingly, the paper identifies no potential risks in a  'single sports or educational establishment administering the whole site', although it will be a public park and includes woodland which is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and an ecology area. LUNG believe that this new public park can only be administered by an organisation that has the breadth of skills to manage all parts of the park (woodland, ecology area, playing fields) and facilities that will be shared by all park users (car park, public paths, boundaries, bins etc).   

Whoever manages the park must have the ambition and motivation to balance the needs of all park users and the amenity of local residents. LUNG believe that a community trust would be very well placed to do this and presented the case for this in some detail in our 'Proposal for a Community Trust to Manage Morley Park'.

You will see from our proposal that we have a strong team prepared to donate their services to the Trust and a detailed analysis of the expected costs and potential income. Management by a trust would not preclude having subcontracts or leases for the use of specific facilities.

The new Localism Act gives local residents' groups the right to insist that councils give their proposals for managing local resources serious consideration, and the Merton Labour party manifesto said they would encourage the use of Community Trusts to run local resources. This scheme is an opportunity to convert these political aims into a local reality.

The link below is to a plan of the whole Atkinson Morley site with an explanation of which parts of it will be included in the new park. 

Morley Park map

 

Dec 2011  

Morley Park: The Council Cabinet again deferred their discussion about the management of the new Morley Park. 

Atkinson Morley and Firs built development: The Section 106 agreement, which sets the conditions attached to the planning approval has now been signed.  The terms specified in the Section 106 include the specifications for the works Berkeley homes will do to the open land before they hand the freehold of the new park over to the Council. This means that construction work on the hospital and Firs sites can now start. Work can also start on the demolition and rebuilding of the sports pavilion and cottage at the southern end of the open land.

Planned closure of the Wolfson:
St George's Healthcare NHS Trust has launched a public consultation on proposals to improve neurorehabilitation services in southwest London. "Clinicians have concluded that moving the services to Queen Mary's, a modern hospital designed for rehabilitation services, would provide the best clinical outcomes as well as being the most cost effective option... The cost of the development work required at Queen Mary's and St George's Hospitals will be covered by selling the Wolfson site, with any excess funds being reinvested in frontline healthcare services... This relocation will result in a large redevelopment site, sandwiched between the Firs and AMH hospital sites, at some time in the near future".
 

Nov 2011   At their Cabinet meeting on 28th November, Merton Council were scheduled to make a recommendation on the  future management of Morley Park (the new park to be created on the Metropolitan Open Land of the former Atkinson Morley Hospital site). The decision was deferred to 13th December pending further investigation.

Council officers submitted their paper for the Cabinet Meeting. It is a negative report, recommending that the management of Morley Park should be retained by the Council, instead of being entrusted to a Community Trust (Morley Park Trust).

Council officers' report
(published 23rd Nov 2011)

LUNG responded to the officers’ report.  We were particularly disappointed that council officers  completely ignored the obligations under the new Localism Act and indeed fail to even inform the Cabinet of the existence of the Act. 

LUNG response to the Council officers' report
 

Oct 2011  

Click here for the first Berkeley Homes newsletter to residents outlining the schedule of works to be done on the site over the next few months. It tells us that the development on both the hospital and Firs site is to be known as Wellington Gate. This is presumably a reference to the second Duke of Wellington who lived at Prospect Place for a few years in the 1850s, having bought it from Charles Pepys (Earl of Cottenham).

Prospect Place was pulled down when the site was bought by St Georges Hospital in 1863.
 

July 2011   The Berkeley Homes planning application was approved on 21st July and, unlike the two previous applications,  this one will be implemented! 

Overall, we feel the outcome is very positive for both the built and open land parts of the site. 

The approved plans include restoration of the open land, much of which will become a new public open space ('Morley Park') incorporating 3 sports pitches and a pavilion.

Much of what the community has been fighting for over several decades will finally be achieved, but we still need your support to ensure there is a sustainable plan for the proposed park.

Click here for further details of the plan

Click here for archived background information
 

Last updated 01/03/17