Local anger over Merton Council turning down Neighbourhood Forum vision
The PlanWimbledon group, which aims to give Wimbledon residents, businesses and employees more say over planning applications, is taking legal advice over Merton Council's refusal to back the scheme.
The establishment of the proposed PlanWimbledon Neighbourhood Forum, which would lead and coordinate the preparation of a neighbourhood plan for the area, had been backed by around 90% of more than 1,000 respondents to a council-run consultation.
But at a full council meeting last month, the plans were voted down by councillors. It had been recommended for refusal in a report prepared by council officers, which was backed by 15 councillors at the meeting, while 13 voted against the report's recommendation and one abstained.
Officers said in the report that the council was legally required to refuse the application as PlanWimbledon's membership was "not considered to be drawn from all places in the specified area or all sections of the community in that area, and further its purpose does not reflect in general terms the character of the entirety of the area".
It said objections to the proposals including Merton Park residents, who either wanted all the area including, or none of the area being part of the plan.
The proposal covered 25% of Merton Park ward as well 75% of Dundonald ward and 50% of Village and Abbey wards. It covered the whole of three wards - Hillside, Wimbledon Park and Trinity.
The report to Merton Council also said representatives of the business community objected on the basis that "the proposed area was too large, that businesses weren’t adequately represented...that there was already a plethora of existing planning rules and guidance and an additional layer of neighbourhood planning would not lead to greater certainty in decision-making".
Love Wimbledon had told the council it was opposed to the proposal, having carried out their own consultation, in which they said 85% of Wimbledon businesses objected to a resident-led neighbourhood plan covering the existing Central Business District (CBD).
They concluded: "We believe the size of the area is unmanageable, the consultation has been unprofessional and carried out under dubious circumstances, the proposed governance will not be representative of all stakeholders and the implementation of this proposal will fetter progress and development of the CBD."
But PlanWimbledon, a non-partisan group chaired by former Merton Councillor Suzanne Grocott, said today (August 29) that it is taking legal advice on the council's decision. It also started a fundraising campaign to help pay for the advice.
A spokesperson for PlanWimbledon said: "Merton Council rejected PlanWimbledon's application for designation as a Neighbourhood Forum, despite a public consultation where over 90% respondents voted in favour.
"We believe that our case was misrepresented to the council and are seeking legal advice that might provide useful clarity on the situation and improve our chances of success going forward.
PlanWimbledon members have expressed their support for the submission of a new application.
"Please support the right of Wimbledon’s businesses, residents and workers to have their say on the future of their neighbourhood.
"The steering committee is also welcoming new people who want to take a more active role. Our focus is on growing our membership, engaging with businesses and the community, and on expanding our social media presence."
You can find out more on PlanWimbledon's website: https://planwimbledon.org/.
August 29, 2021