|"Planning Permission Granted In The Face Of Overwhelming Opposition"|
Judicial Review judgment to be the subject of an immediate appeal
Nick Evans, a Spokesman for Friends of Putney Common (FofPC) said today, "Residents will be concerned and disappointed that Wandsworth Borough Council’s Planning Applications Committee has agreed that planning permission be granted to Wandsworth Council to develop the former Putney Hospital site in order to create a block of flats and a large primary school. The planning application was widely opposed with some 1,287 objections and just ten in support. The council has ignored local residents’ opposition and also failed to make any changes to the plans since the last planning permission was quashed in the High Court twelve months ago.
“It is extraordinary that residents’ legitimate concerns on numerous issues, from traffic intensity, to the loss of Metropolitan Open Land and the urbanization of Putney Lower Common, were simply ignored. We are not against the development of the site in principle, but we believe that the present plans are far too over-intensive given the size and position of the site.”
The FofPC had separately sought a Judicial Review regarding the easement agreements signed by Wandsworth Council and the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators, in order to allow the council to expand its development onto Putney Common. The decision made today (8 November 2013) to dismiss this claim is not unexpected. But it does not alter the fact that the Conservators, whose remit is to resist any encroachment on the commons, have utterly failed in their duty by allowing the Council to buy the access and obtain a permanent right.
The Conservators have effectively appointed the Council as their contractors, to build a substantial, tarmacked road on Putney Common, for the exclusive use of a private development. Ironically, the same Conservators recently refused permission for a path to be upgraded to allow a “green” cycle route to be established, adjacent to the hospital. The reason given was “that it would alter the natural state of the Common”. However it is worth noting that in the case of the new access road, the Conservators are receiving £350,000 from the Council in “access fees”. This plainly amounts to selling off part of Putney Common to the Council so that it can cram its over ambitious development onto a site which would otherwise not be big enough. They are also allowing the conversion of existing grass footpaths to gravel or tarmac, with overhead lighting. The Conservators’ hypocrisy is now self evident to rate and commons levy payers.
FofPC’s campaign to prevent inappropriate development at Putney Hospital
The campaign to protect Putney Common from an inappropriate development is widely supported as is demonstrated by the number of objections to the planning application. The Council, as both applicant and planning authority, was required to be rigorous in considering the application. This has not happened, and many residents are critical of a planning system that can be manipulated in the way that it has been, not least in being able to ignore the overwhelming opposition from residents in Thamesfield who will be most affected by this decision. The lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment has caused particular concern.
While many residents support the building of a school or other development for the community such as a residential home on the Council-owned land, they have clearly shown that they are against the Council’s proposals. A school with a roof top playground, inadequate parking facilities, problematic arrangements for dropping off children, high risk from over 1,500 people crossing the very busy Lower Richmond Road every day and a deleterious effect on local parking and traffic have not been taken into account. The building of the access road alongside the hospital on Common/Metropolitan Open Land is opposed.
FofPC to launch online appeal
FofPC continues to believe that the Conservators are acting ‘ultra vires” and that the recent court judgment is legally and fundamentally flawed. It is FofPC’s belief that the Conservators are complicit in helping the Council to remove a significant part of Putney Common from residents’ legitimate use, when the conservators’ sole purpose and remit should be to protect the Common.
They failed to consult residents in advance of signing secret agreements with the Council. The Conservators have not only failed in protecting Putney Common but they have also failed in their duty to the residents who elected them to protect it.