Friends of Putney Common Share Their Flier

Distributed at the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators Annual Meeting

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Everyone wants to see a successful resolution for the Putney Hospital site. It has remained semi-derelict for some 15 years and has cost tax and ratepayers literally millions of pounds.

A proposal is sought that is appropriate, uses the site intelligently, to the benefit of the community and not to the detriment of the common. Wandsworth’s proposal fails miserably on all counts. It is much too intensive; 24 luxury flats for which there is little room and a playground on the roof of a school for which the demand is at best debatable. Wandsworth continually talk of the dramatic rise in the birth-rate in Thamesfield. However the reality is that the projected birth-rate in Thamesfield between today and 2017 is 0.00%, based on figures supplied by the Greater London Authority and Wandsworth.

How much support do the FofPC enjoy? When the High Court quashed the planning permission (March 2013) for the school and flats Wandsworth Councillor Kathy Tracey condemned a “small number of people” for denying children a school they so badly needed. What Cllr Tracey should have done was to apologise for the deceit of Wandsworth and their planning department, which led to the High Court quashing the permission so readily, with costs paid by Wandsworth.

Today, solicitors for the Conservators and Wandsworth work together to attack the objectors stating “the real objection is to the quantity of traffic”. This is simply not the case. The objections to the sale of the access by the Conservators are widely supported, over 500 residents specifically objected to Wandsworth using the FofPC postcard, which they had to sign, date and post.

A further 300 objected directly to Wandsworth. All of these objectors are commons levy payers. Rather than supporting local residents, the Conservators are entirely aligned with Wandsworth; the residents’ views are ignored, even though they fund the commons. Hard-line solicitors and eminent barristers (Ranjit Bhose QC for Wandsworth, Guy Fetherstonhaugh QC for the Conservators) make spurious arguments, hoping to have the pending Judicial Review thrown out by the High Court.

The concern of residents is the over-intensive use, only made possible by the Conservators selling rights, (for £350,000), to a substantial area of land, which will be lost to the common forever. A large area of Putney Lower Common will become urbanised; tarmacked roads with electronic barriers, security bollards and ditches, new tarmac footpaths with street lighting.

To all intents the characteristics of the common will change substantially and for the worse, because of the self-indulgence of Wandsworth and entirely supported by the Conservators. The Conservators need to either resign or rethink their responsibilities, particularly when so many of their levy payers oppose their strategy and have never been formally consulted on their views.

The Conservators lack of commitment to the one thing they are meant to do - to protect and preserve Putney Common - is a disgrace.

Will the Conservators please respond this evening to the following questions?

1. The proposed polyclinic scheme was cancelled by Wandsworth Primary Care Trust (WPCT) in September 2009. Why did the Conservators enter into an easement agreement in July 2010 related to roads and footpaths on Putney Common with the WPCT and Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) knowing that the scheme was not proceeding?

2. When the WPCT scheme was found to be unsustainable, why did the Conservators not immediately reclaim the temporary roads and encroachments onto the Common made by the hospital over decades?

3. In February 2012 the Conservators secretly entered into a second easement agreement with Wandsworth Borough Council, the new owners of the site, without consulting Levy Payers or local residents. The agreement was then buried for months. Why?

4. We now know that the proposed payment for the sale of the access rights is a total of £350,000. Is it correct that £349,999 is the payment for the access for the flats, and £1 is the payment for the access for the proposed school? As Trustees of a Charity, the Conservators have a fiduciary duty, to the Charity, which appears to have been ignored by accepting a token payment in respect of the school, but not the flats. Why would this not be a flagrant breach of the Conservators’ responsibilities under the Charities Act? Why do they continue to refuse to disclose the professional advice received in respect of the valuation?

5. The Conservators have said repeatedly that they were coerced by Wandsworth and the WPCT into the sale of the land, under threats of a Compulsory Purchase Order, or a complete takeover of Wimbledon and Putney Common, by the Council. The Council denies this. Who is telling the truth? In any event a CPO in this situation which relates to a Common that is protected by Act of Parliament would be unlikely.

6. The Conservators role, defined by the 1871 Act, is to protect Wimbledon and Putney Common, not to grant / sell access to enable development, particularly development that is over intensive and inappropriate. Given their absolute failure, why do the Conservators consider they should continue in their roles, and not resign immediately?

7. The Conservators know that the new access road is not “necessary” in the sense of the word in Section 39 of the 1871 Act because the building of a road to provide access for a development has nothing to do with the functions and duties of the Conservators. If they have legal opinion to the contrary, why do they not make it available?

8. The Conservators invite the public to their monthly meeting, but the public cannot contribute. Once the official business is conducted blandly, the public are then excluded and the Conservators remain and discuss the real issues they are facing. Where are these discussions minuted, or published? Why are subcommittee minutes not available? This style sums up the Conservators lack of transparency.

9. Putney Hospital is currently surrounded by a security hoarding, which encloses substantial parts of Putney Common, land that is owned by the Conservators. The planning permission for the proposed school and luxury flats was quashed by the High Court in March 2013, as it was unlawful.

The site has no valid planning permission, there is no planning application pending. Will the Conservators please explain why they don’t immediately remove the hoarding and reclaim the common land that the Council has unlawfully enclosed?

Friends of Putney Common (FoPC)

Map showing the hospital site in 1871

Map showing the hospital site with proposed roads paths etc

June 21, 2013