Apologies to “Little Britain” but I was looking for some way of putting into words the double standards of local politics – never mind the shenanigans at Westminster. I have been quiet for a while – I had a delightful 10 days at the end of August in Vancouver for a pal’s daughter getting married but came straight back into things on the home front with a BANG.
Within 24 hours of landing, I was at a residents’ meeting about the proposed development of Sheen Way Playing Fields. An impressive turnout and an enthusiastic attitude driven principally by residents mystified that anyone could think that putting 240+ SEN children at the end of a cul de sac and next to a railway – no access to public transport and “protected” from the railway by closed, tinted, non-opening glass and artificial ventilation!
Barely a trace of nimbyism – just oceans of common sense and passionate advocacy for the children lead by Councillor Jillian Green.
What a contrast on Tuesday night when there was a Planning Committee meeting about a proposed school at Rose Hill. Long opposed by local Liberal Democrat Councillors Dombey (yes, the Leader of the Council), Penneck and Herron.
Just to put the matter into context – they had objected to the site before and the Council had been authorised to spend a fortune acquiring Sutton Hospital land as part of Councillor Dombey’s favourite vanity project, the London Cancer Hub and land – deemed inadequate by an expert report – was set aside for a school. Some people, perhaps unfairly, have claimed this was to protect her and her colleagues’ electoral prospects.
Nevertheless, Rose Hill was allocated for development as a secondary school and adjacent Special Needs Annex within the Local Plan – yes, that plan that was voted in with Liberal Democrat unanimity in February 2018.
On Tuesday evening, in front of a partisan public audience, a proposal for the school to be built and funded by the Department of Education (DfE) was rejected on design and other “planning” grounds.
The tone was very different to the Sheen Way Residents meeting – Cllr Steve Penneck spoke of concerns about Parking, the Traffic Plan and Traffic Congestion but of course, the major concern was design. I pointed out in questioning that irrespective of design, his three other concerns prevailed so his principle concern could not be design!
There was only one Liberal Democrat Member, Cllr Andrew who articulated any real concern over the fact that next year’s intake of 200 – 300 Secondary School Children would be without a guaranteed place – but when it came to the vote, design was the key.
So a Liberal Democrat Council allocates a site for a much needed secondary school, imposes parking constraints on residents and then uses parking as a reason to refuse – makes no attempt to improve infrastructure or public transport and uses traffic congestion as a reason to refuse – closes down cultural facilities in the Borough yet uses architectural aesthetics as a reason to refuse. Refuse not just Planning Permission but this Borough’s children’s educational opportunities – very sad.
In other news, the same Planning Committee had, 6 days earlier, via the voting of the Liberal Democrat majority on the Committee – one abstention and yes, it was the thoughtful Cllr Andrew again – agreed the building of another waste transfer facility on Beddington Lane. I asked the representative of SUEZ, the waste company involved when their last fire was at the Merton Plant that they are vacating –May was the answer.
Irrespective of the fact that it is only a matter of weeks since a fire at the Viridor plant blew toxic fumes all over Beddington and Croydon and the fact that the fire investigation remains incomplete. Irrespective of the fact that there are objections from our neighbours in Croydon over the routing of HGV’s and a suspension of an HGV ban in Beddington Village it all passed the critical litmus test for Liberal Democrat approval – “It’s Beddington – they’ve even got Croydon postcodes, who cares?”
In the South London Waste Plan – introduced in 2012 (yes it is that out of date) – reference is made to impacts of this site on the local school which was Beddington Primary 1.06km from the site. Since then, they have built Hackbridge Primary 1.2 km from the site but they took no notice of the approval to build an incinerator less than 1 km away in the Air Quality Report for that school, so another major fire risk nearby did not even warrant a mention in the SUEZ proposals.
On other matters, by now you will have all received the letter about Consultation on the Parking Strategy. Please respond and if you know a neighbour who perhaps is not au fait with computers please help them – a Councillor from the other side of the Borough received a note from the Council Officers that indicated an absolute minimum of effort is being put in to facilitate paper copies and we need to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to have their say.
Finally, some progress – as Chair of the Conservation and Access Management Committee for Beddington Farmlands, I have managed to get two “proper” community representatives on board – from Hackbridge, Stephen Debourde, and from Beddington, Tom Sweeney. The scientists have done a cracking job on the ecology so our focus is on public access and we will ensure that local interests have a voice and an exemplary restoration job is done.
If you have any other concerns about Beddington North be sure to email us: