Merton Council wins lengthy battle over Dundonald Primary School expansion
A bitter battle over plans to expand a primary school has reached its conclusion with Merton Council being given final permission to start work.
The controversial plans, given the rubber stamp by Merton councillors at a cabinet meeting last night, will see the erection of a new two storey building at Dundonald Primary School in Wimbledon.
A stern challenge by campaigners saw Wimbledon's MP shut out of a public meeting, the council's former cabinet member for education lose his job and the changing of an historic convenant which had prevented loss of green space on Dundonald Recreation Ground.
The school will permanently expand to two forms of entry and provide an extra 210 school places.
The project will cover 2,578 square metres and will include the construction of a new multi use games area including tennis courts and replacement of the existing pavilion.
Building work will take place on the existing footprint of the former outbuildings and pavilion to counter loss of green space.
However the bowling green, previously used by the Wandgas Bowls Club, will be lost to make way for a new playground and outdoor gym.
Members of the Protect Dundonald Rec Campaign have fought the proposals from the start and in March launched a legal challenge to an Upper Lands Tribunal against the council over loss of green space to the public.
This was defeated in June.
Following the decision Councillor Martin Whelton, cabinet member for education, said: "This is the right decision.
"It will provide much needed school places in the Wimbledon area and additional 30 places per year in one of the most heavily oversubscribed schools in Merton.
"I believe that the new facilities at the school will considerably enhance Dundonald Rec.
"Clearly this has been ongoing for a number of years and this is the final hurdle required.
"It has received planning permission and Sport England has given the go ahead which we are delighted about."
However campaigners have vowed to fight on claiming the public, councillors and statutory bodies have been misled by council officers and have put the matter into the hands of their solicitor.
Lorraine Maries of the PDRC said: “There is no justification for expanding this school onto public open space, especially when the money is desparately needed for education elsewhere in the borough.
"The Council’s claim they have ‘won’ is a fantasy.
"It appears that the Cabinet was so dazzled by the false promises that they failed to consider not only local opinion but also factual evidence put before them.
"The decision to appropriate the land was based on several false assumptions.”
Dr Ernesto Pinto, Chair of Dundonald Rec Tennis Club (DRTC) and a member of the Dundonald Rec Sports Committee (DSC) said:“This appropriation will irreversibly damage our sport facilities within the Rec.
"Bowling will cease forever after a century of play, the future of football, cricket and tennis will be at risk.
"The “improved facilities” that Merton is promoting reduce by 50 per cent the size of the changing rooms and toilet facilities in the proposed pavilion.”
"The sport pavilion will not be part of the Recreation Ground, so the Council can choose to ban sports users from using it.
"This is not acceptable."
Coun Whelton said that was "a shame" that the proposals had been fought at every turn.
He said: "Obviously it's democracy and they are entitled to their views but we have a statutory responsibility to provide school places.
"We know this will not be a detriment to the park and will enhance the facilities and those facilities will be available for local people including a multi use games area along with a modernised pavilion."
Councillor Peter Walker, former education cabinet member who first initiated the plan, said: "The old pavilion has been there 50 years and is decrepit and nobody uses it in the winter.
"Now we will have a modern community centre with access from Dundonald Road which means 52 weeks a year there will be a community resource and that is fantastic."
Pressure on primary schools has been steadily rising owing to a increasing birth rate in the borough and the council has already ploughed £80m into expanding seven primary schools in Merton to provide a further 4,410 permanent places.
Work on expanding Dundonald Primary is expected to start in the spring of 2014.
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