No wrongdoing by Merton Council over Nelson Hospital bid, ombudsman finds
An independent report into Merton Council’s handling of the Nelson Hospital application has concluded although there was an administrative fault, there was no wrongdoing.
Concerned residents contacted a local government ombudsman to probe what they believed was the council’s mishandling of the bid to transform the Kingston Road hospital into flats.
The report found although there was ‘administrative fault in the conduct of a site meeting or presentation to members of the planning committee’ this did not conclusively impact on the final result.
On behalf of more than 50 residents who live near the development, Tracy Breakell, of Manor Gardens, Wimbledon, said they will continue to hunt for answers.
Miss Breakell, who contacted the ombudsman last year, said: "Our biggest complaint is we feel the council has abused its powers in steam-rollering it and ignoring our representations.
"We suggested a living wall, opaque glass for windows over-looking people’s rooms and gardens, and screens on balconies but it was all ignored."
Miss Breakell said she has contacted the secretary of state for communities and local government to see if a screening opinion can be carried out - this, she claims, is a questionnaire the council should have completed as part of the planning process.
She is also concerned the ombudsman has been mislead as part of its investigations and is pushing for a re-evaluation of the report.
Complaints focus on the consultation carried out with English Heritage, the design of the block of retirement flats being built on the western part of the site, the loss of trees and an air quality assessment.
Chris Lee, the council’s director of environment and regeneration said: "The ombudsman has not been mislead.
"This has caused a lot of anxiety between residents in the area.
"The planning committee were properly advised.
"Some people feel a decision hasn’t taken their views into consideration but that’s not always the case."
The decision from the ombudsman said: "I consider there was some administrative fault in some aspects of the consideration of the planning application.
"There is some uncertainty whether the decision reached would have been different but I cannot conclude it would."
Work at the former Nelson Hospital site is now well underway with 220 tonnes of steel, 3,500 cubic metres of concrete and 35,000 man hours having gone into creating the building's framework.
The project includes the construction of a new local care centre part funded by the sale of an adjacent car park where developer McCarthy and Stone is set to build a three storey retirement home for 51 residents.
Set to open in 2015, the local care centre will house two GP practices with Cannon Hill Lane and Church Lane due to move into the centre as part of NHS south west London's Better Healthcare Closer to Home initiative.
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