Campaigners seek judicial review against Merton Council over Dundonald Primary School expansion plans
Merton Council and campaigners look set to clash once more after a second legal challenge was launched over plans to extend Dundonald Primary School.
The controversial plans call for the erection of a two storey building, multi use games area including tennis courts, a playground and outdoor gym on the existing bowling pavilion and the replacement of the existing pavilion at Dundonald Recreation Ground in Wimbledon.
The expansion will provide more than two hundred extra school places taking 2578 square metres of land from recreation land adjacent to the primary school.
However the demolition of outbuildings and the pavillion will counter this loss.
When the council first unveiled their plans for expansion more than two years ago they were met with strong opposition from Protect Dundonald Rec Campaigners (PDRC), who want to preserve the recreation ground.
In March the group lodged a legal challenge to an Upper Lands Tribunal against the council over the restriction of the land to the public citing a 19th century covenant which stated it should remain public.
But their bid failed and resulted in the covenant being modified to allow the land to be used for educational purposes, including the building of schools.
Now PDRC has applied for a judicial review into the council's decision to erect notices which restrict public access to the park's tennis courts and bowling green which they say is in contravention of the bylaws, and its intention to appropriate the land from recreation to educational use.
Lorraine Maries, chairwoman of PDRC, said: "We know the council is trying to 'prove' Dundonald School has exclusive rights to the tennis courts so they can appropriate the land.
"This is dishonest and legally incorrect, because the general public has rights to the land."
"To appropriate the tennis courts and bowling green the council is legally obliged to demonstrate that people don’t use them - and that they are not needed by the public.
"This explains why the council affixed signs prohibiting public access to the tennis courts and bowling green; they are trying to trick the local community into a legal trap.
"This is shameful behaviour.
"Everyone knows the tennis courts - indeed all of the Rec - are very well used all day and every day.
"They are a popular and much needed sport and recreation facility."
Merton Council said it would "strongly defend" itself in the face of a judicial review and refuted claims the public would lose access to the tennis courts.
Councillor Martin Whelton, cabinet member for education, said: "We remain committed to expanding the school to provide excellent education to local children and are following the correct procedures so that this happens."
Residents are still able to have their say on the plans as part of a final statutory ‘appropriation of land’ in what could be the council’s final hurdle before work can begin on the expansion.
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