Merton Residents saved from Tory high-rise free-for-all

Local Liberal Democrats have forced a reversal of Merton Council planning policy to prevent developers adding extra floors to high-rise buildings in Merton without local scrutiny.

Under new laws pushed through by the Conservative Government and supported by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, developers across the country are allowed to add two extra floors to blocks of flats built after 1948 without planning permission or the approval of the existing flat owners or local residents.

Under these laws, these extra storeys are considered "permitted development" which only has to receive "prior approval" consent not planning permission. This means there's limited consultation with residents, and requirements for affordable housing, minimum space standards, or for amenity space don't apply.

However, local Liberal Democrats in Merton have uncovered a Planning Appeal decision that shows that parts of Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden are exempt from these permitted development rules.

Read more

Wimbledon residents among worst hit by stealth tax rise as 5,500 dragged into higher rate tax band

  • The Times reports on freezing of income tax threshold bands costing squeezed-middle households
  • Local Conservative MP criticised for voting to hike taxes 12 times in Parliament

Yesterday (29 July) The Times reported on new analysis by the Liberal Democrats, revealing that Wimbledon is one of the 20 constituencies hit hardest by the Government’s latest stealth tax rise which has frozen the higher rate tax threshold.

Read more

AELTC Update July 2022

Fight goes to 5-setter

We are hugely proud that Wimbledon is the home of the world's premier tennis tournament. But whilst we take pride in the AELTC, they continue to take our community for granted, with their plans to build a 10 storey stadium, 38 tennis courts and 9km of road on Metropolitan Open Land in Wimbledon Park.

Since May's local elections we have redoubled our efforts to persuade the All England Club to scale back their proposals. Wimbledon's Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Cllr Paul Kohler and the three new Wimbledon Park Lib Dem councillors Jil Hall, Tony Reiss and Samantha MacArthur have met with a range of residents groups to help coordinate our approach, been interviewed by the Daily Telegraph, questioned the Leader & Chief Executive of Merton Council and met with the AELTC. Merton's Lib Dem London Assembly Member Cllr Hina Bokari has also been working with colleagues on the London Assembly to raise this issue with the Mayor of London.

Despite all our efforts, and those of the wider community, the AELTC have refused to scale back their plans. We must consequently prepare ourselves for a protracted battle - hence our reference to a 5 setter. However the more appropriate sporting analogy might be a double-header, as there will be two distinct phases in our campaign, focusing on two separate hurdles the AELTC are trying to overcome.

Ultimately the All England Club cannot proceed with their plans to develop the park because Merton Council own the benefit of a covenant which prevents them building on the land they have acquired. Provided Merton Council can be persuaded to enforce their covenant, the AELTC cannot proceed. Unfortunately the Council are currently refusing to confirm they will enforce the covenant. However before we confront that issue, the All England Club first need to be granted planning permission from both Merton and Wandsworth Councils. We are consequently focusing on the planning issue this summer.

The AELTC's proposals are likely to be considered at a special meeting of Merton's Planning Committee to be held sometime in September, followed by a separate meeting of Wandsworth's committee in October. It is crucial that the community's voice is heard loud and clear at both those meetings.

Just last month the AELTC updated their application with 60 new documents. The AELTC describes the amendments as “minor”, and the core principles of the scheme are unchanged: there will still be an 8,000 seat stadium and 38 courts built on Capability Brown’s historical Metropolitan Open Land. The new park remains “permissive” rather than “public” and contains a 30,000sqft Central Maintenance Hub for all the new courts.

Please make your views known. If you commented previously, please comment again, by email to both Merton and Wandsworth with the application number in the subject header of your email and adding your address to make it valid. The deadline for Merton is 13 August.

Please send your comments as soons as possible, to both
You might wish to cover some or all of the following issues in your letter.
  • Unacceptable Environmental Impact. The former golf course will be excavated, infilled, and levelled to deliver the new tennis complex over 7 years, threatening protected priority habitats. Claims for biodiversity net gains have been challenged in expert analysis.
  • 300 mature trees will be felled, others moved, and an estimated 500 younger trees will be uprooted in the excavations.
  • This is a Grade II* Listed Heritage Site, precious open space, protected Green Belt.Once built upon, the protection will be lost, and it could become completely developed.
  • At 28m high and 104m wide the Stadium will still dominate this protected open space, contrary to the 1993 covenant, and will stand empty for most of the year. The AELTC still won’t commit to full design and layout details.
  • The new AELTC park will still belong to the AELTC, it still contains a 30,000sqft “central” maintenance hub, and public access to it and the walk around the lake is still only “permissive”: it may be withdrawn as their commercial priorities change. They admit that their Masterplan for the future of their estate is “an evolving vision”.
  • With limited tournament use over just 3 weeks the density of courts and infrastructure across the site is excessive and disproportionate. Community access to play tennis will be negligible. Parking and the Queue will still be on public park land.
  • The plans still assume Church Road will be closed during the Championships, even to pedestrians and cyclists.

LESSA Application success

 

The planning committee has voted against developing over the LESSA sports field.

West Barnes Lib Dems welcomed the decision of the planning committee to vote against the development of the LESSA sports field.  The development of the green space would have been a significant loss of green space for West Barnes residents.

Read more

All-party Waste Summit - Open letter

From: Councillor Anthony Fairclough
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2022 5:45:05 PM
To: Councillor Natasha Irons <[email protected]>; Councillor Ross Garrod <[email protected]>
Subject: All-party Waste Summit - Open Letter

Dear both

New all-party Waste Summit

Hope you are well, and congratulations on your election and appointment as leader and cabinet member respectively!

I wanted to follow up on my speech from yesterday by formally asking you to set up an all-party summit on waste management arrangements, particularly to pinpoint the areas of concern but also to begin to look potential ways forward.

There are also undoubtedly some quick wins: action that the Council could take now to clean up our streets and manage our contractors more effectively.

Significant improvement will require all options to be looked at, including termination of the existing waste contracts, or the substantial renegotiation of them. Should either of those approaches be taken, it will take considerable work and could lead to additional costs. Change management on this scale would need strong project leadership and effective scrutiny.

An all-party Waste Summit would at least be an opportunity to increase everyone’s understanding of the issues, which in turn could make a joint approach possible.

In terms of my group’s priorities, we would highlight the below as potential workstreams. These won significant support from residents during the recent local elections:

  • Prioritise street sweeping after collections to tackle leftover litter
  • Investigate regular pop-up “community waste collections”, where you can drop off items nearer you, instead of driving to the tip 
  • Better and active contract management and monitoring – ensuring the Council’s contractors are challenged when services fail and bins are overflowing
  • A focus on problems with collections from blocks of flats
  • Taking stronger action against flytippers and tackling ‘grot spots’.

We would also like to highlight some work recently undertaken by Newham on flytipping - this shows both what is possible, and also a different approach to understanding the problems.

As I said last night, I think by working together we really could win for everyone – a real fresh start for our area.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

Anthony

--

Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Leader of the Opposition

Wimbledon Town and Dundonald (Liberal Democrat)


Wimbledon’s Conservative MP slammed for voting against Windfall Tax on oil and gas companies

On Tuesday 17 May, Conservative MPs, including Wimbledon’s MP Stephen Hammond, voted against a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help people with their energy bills. 

Despite 248 MPs voting in favour of the one-off tax on the record profits of multinational oil firms, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon failed to support the proposal, even as inflation soared to 9%.

Read more

Liberal Democrats win big in Merton local elections

Pictured: the 17 new Liberal Democrat councillors in Merton

The Liberal Democrats won 17 council seats in Merton’s local elections on Thursday, beating the Conservatives to become the official opposition on Merton Council and the biggest party in the Wimbledon constituency.

The full results* are:

  • Labour – 31 (down 4)
  • Liberal Democrats – 17 (up 12)
  • Conservatives – 7 (down 8)
  • Merton Park Residents Association – 2
Read more

LESSA planning application update

West Barnes Lib Dems fight for LESSA sports ground to be retained for sporting and community use.

Read more

Clash over Wimbledon tennis stadium plans

Lib Dem motion passes – but only after being watered down by Labour

Many local people have voiced their opposition to the All England Tennis Club’s significant expansion plans, which would result in an 8000 seat stadium, nearly 10km of new roads on the land, and the felling of hundreds of mature trees.

Last week, at a meeting of Merton Council, local Lib Dem councillors demanded that Council bosses state they would enforce legal promises not to build, made when the land was bought by AELTC in 1993.

Lib Dem challenge

Sadly Labour councillors sought to water down that commitment.

Lib Dem councillors voted against this Labour amendment and were supported by the Merton Park Residents Association councillors. The Conservative councillors refused to try to block Labour's attempt to water down the commitment to protect the land, instead choosing to abstain.

Even stranger, Conservative councillors called for Council legal advice to be published (which at this stage would just weaken the Council’s position) and then refused to vote to constrain the Council’s position at all.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, said:

“Last night was an opportunity to ensure the Council enforced the covenants to prevent the All England Club concreting over acres of Wimbledon Park. Sadly, that opportunity has been lost due to Labour evasiveness and Conservative inaction.

“I am surprised and hugely disappointed by the Conservative councillors’ refusal to back our proposal last night. Despite arguing in favour of the substance of our motion, they refused to join us in voting against Labour’s cynical amendment that stripped out the binding commitment requiring the Council to enforce the covenants.

“They then failed to vote on the final motion, choosing to abstain again. I am not sure why they bothered to turn up as they simply sat on their hands.”

“Conservative councillors might claim they want to save Wimbledon Park, but actions speak louder than words. The Conservative group’s preference for playing politics over making real progress has set our campaign back. Wimbledon residents deserve far better from their elected representatives.

“Despite the events of last night, the battle is far from over. We have at least succeeded in getting a commitment from the Council to 'respect' the covenants, and I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will continue to campaign to ensure these covenants are enforced and the All England Club's over-development blocked.”

Read more

“Cost of living rebate” rejected

Labour Council bosses blocked small rebate on Council Tax bills amid rising fuel bills, at last night’s Council meeting.

Liberal Democrat councillors proposed an amendment to the annual budget to reduce the impact of Council Tax rises by giving all households in Council Tax bands A to D a reduction by cutting up to 30% off the latest increase.

In total, 62,000 households in Merton would benefit from the rebate – equivalent to 72% of all households in the borough. The rebate would be funded by using some unallocated reserves.

Speaking after the Council meeting, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, Cllr Paul Kohler, said:

“With energy bills skyrocketing and the Conservative Government set to increase taxes in April, families across Merton are already having to make difficult choices.

“They have been abandoned by the Conservative Government, whose failure to take action has allowed the cost of living crisis to spiral out of control and whose tax rises risk pushing thousands into financial hardship.

“Whilst it’s not as big a rebate as we would like, we felt it was the least local councillors could do to support families that are struggling to make ends meet.

“I was disappointed that Labour and Merton Park Residents Association councillors wouldn’t join me in voting for the Liberal Democrats’ amendment tonight. Cash-strapped households don't need more taxes - they need a break.”