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This is certainly a step in the right direction. The letter of objection that I sent to the Council read: Dear Sir, I read about this application with deep sorrow; not only because Merton was my birthplace in 1947 and for the next 16 years was my home and I have maintained constant ties with the area but because of the manner in which planners appear to be totally ignoring the wishes of the people as well as the rules by which you (the Council) are bound to operate by. I will put my hand up and openly declare a personal interest in Merton Hall as I am, by marriage, related to the building's architect, Henry Goodall Quartermain I feel especially aggrieved that a part of my ancestor's craft is being treated with such open disdain. Will his precious buildings in the Merton Conservation Area be at risk next? One wonders how many of those truly wonderful buildings is the Council planning to destroy? In the case of this application the Council is failing, in my opinion, to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework and Merton's local CS14, DMD2, DMD3, DMD4. There is a raft of policies on design, management of heritage, scale and mass that are being breached and others have made those well known to you. Yet still the Council presses on with open support for the application; indeed with unhindered encouragement because of its other agenda of school provision. Then we have the fact that Merton Hall is actually on Merton's Local (Non-Statutory) List of Buildings of Historic or Architectural Interest. I accept that a local listing provides no additional planning controls, however, the guidance provided by Historic England makes it clear that "the fact that a building or site is on a local list means that its conservation as a heritage asset is an objective of the NPPF and a material consideration when determining the outcome of a planning application. " Yet the applicant sees fit to skirt round the need for a Heritage Statement to be submitted so ensuring that the potential impacts of the proposed development on this local heritage asset to would not be openly addressed. How can the Council, on the one hand, fully acknowledge its importance by having it on the list and spending many thousands of pounds to renovate it yet, on the other, openly disregard its own assessment? It is deeply disturbing that any Council can behave in such a blatant manner and makes me wonder if there aren't some personal agendas afoot here; I do hope not but if there are they will be found out. The Council as applicant must provide a clear explanation of why there has again been no formal requirement for a Heritage Statement to be prepared; it is, after all, a stated requirement of any planning application which would impact on a heritage asset or its setting. Merton's Validation Check List for all Full Planning Applications states: 'For applications either related to or impacting on the setting of heritage assets a written statement that includes plans showing historic features that may exist on or adjacent to the application site including listed buildings and structures, historic parks and gardens, historic battlefields and scheduled ancient monuments and an analysis of the significance of archaeology, history and character of the building/structure, the principles of and justification for the proposed works and their impact on the special character of the listed building or structure, its setting and the setting of adjacent listed buildings may be required'. There is no doubt that the proposed development will have a significant impact on the integrity and appearance of the building and result in the loss of features of heritage significance as is referenced in your local listing. It is not only a vital heritage asset but also fulfils a vital inclusive public community facility that was designed for, gifted for and been continuously used for this purpose for over 100 years. It has also been loved by thousands over the years and should be allowed to continue to do so. I know that emotions feature low with planners because they do not form part of planning law yet they are one of the core values of the community that you should be planning for; not the narrow aspirations of a small private entity. There are bound to be noise issues related to this church judging from the number of noise objections and actual closures by other councils because of their noise levels. The requirements of Policy CS 11 and DM C1 are also being flouted. " Policy CS11 states that the Council will support the multi-use of social, educational, cultural and recreational facilities; and resist the net loss of social and community facilities particularly where a need has been identified. The objective of Policy DM C1 is to ensure the provision of sufficient, accessible, well-designed community facilities." The proposal for the exclusive use of the building by the Elim Church does not fit with this policy.If you do allow the application to proceed and sell the building (a double travesty!) I implore you to ensure that there are sufficient devices used such as covenants to ensure that the building appearance is never allowed to be changed; in short it would be best for it to become a Grade II Listed Building to protect what remains. Clearly this really would not be my preferred outcome as it would still deny its use as was intended and gifted.A point of detail, but nevertheless a key point, is that the roof line and ridge of the proposed new structure is, when viewed from the front above those of the original adjacent part of the building. This is absolutely ghastly as it dominates the wonderful original design and must not, on any account, be permitted to appear like this. The architect must have had it in mind to make it appear the most important aspect; it is not and it is clear that his skill is not equal to the sensitivities of Henry Goodall Quartermain!In summary, the use of the building must be protected for the purposes of use by an inclusive community under the terms of any proposed sale of the building by Merton Council as was the intent of John Innes when he donated the building. It is not there for the Council to use for their own purposes, it is there for the people of Merton and it is your duty, as a Council formed to serve the people, to place them first. It is, and must remain, a beautiful and inclusive community asset. Yours most sincerely Michael J. Strange(My address was provided to the Council but I deleted it for this forum response)

Mike Strange ● 1902d