Developer says costs at Rufus Business Centre scheme raised by decontamination
Visualisation of the development viewed from Durnsford Recreation Ground. Picture: Wandle Way Ltd
June 20, 2022
Buildings on an industrial estate will be demolished to make way for nearly 100 “highly imposing” new flats in Wimbledon Park. But the cost to remove radioactive contamination from the site next to a park means just eight per cent of the 96 flats will be affordable.
It is the third time plans for the Rufus Business Centre have come before Merton Council’s planning committee, after it was deferred twice earlier this year. This was for clarification on the cost of removing contamination from the land.
The plans, submitted by Wandle Way Ltd, are for 96 flats across four blocks of between three and eight storeys tall – it also includes an office space on the ground floor. The development was given the green light by the committee on Thursday (June 16).
More than 350 signed a petition and neighbour of the development, Chris Beech, was concerned that those in affordable homes would be in a separate block. He said: “The social costs will be huge, it will promote division in the community and risks stigmatising those living in the affordable block. This is social segregation it is unacceptable.”
Mr Beech said the height and size of the development isn’t in keeping with the surrounding area and would overpower the Durnsford Recreation Ground. He added: “The lack of urban greening on this highly imposing development should be a reason for refusal, height should be reduced and greening increased to improve local amenity.”
Barry Newman, project manager for the development, defended the scheme and explained that contamination of the site has impacted how many afforable homes can be provided on the site. He said this radioactive contamination is from previous manufacture on the site.
Mr Newman said the same contamination was present on an adjoining site which is being redeveloped and cost £4 million to clean up. He said since the last committee bore hole testing has been carried out on the Rufus Business Centre site.
He said: “This confirms that the contamination is spread across the whole site. Very high levels of radioactive contamination are present, however the only way we will know is to demolish it and then deal with all the remediattion. Until that happens our cost will only be estimations.”
He said the developer would consider providing more affordable housing if costs allowed it once this work had taken place and that these would be across other blocks on the site.
Mr Newman said: “Housing associations insist on having a separate entrance for rented units which assists in mitigating their management costs. However our designs are tenure blind in so far as amenity space is for all and the entrances of each block are identical to one another.”
Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter