A council has apologised to residents after a series of blunders nearly cost them the chance to object to plans to build a eight-storey 'aparthotel' on their doorstep.
More than 100 residents living close to 34-40 Morden Road, a row of cottages earmarked for development into nine flats and a 31-bedroom hotel, sent objections to planning officers after the proposal was submitted last June.
Site earmarked for an 'aparthotel' mixed residential and short-term accommodation
But when developers appealed Merton Council's decision to reject the proposal in April this year, planning officers gave residents the wrong date for the public hearing, and told them they had six weeks to submit objections to the new proposal.
By chance, residents e-mailed their concerns to planning officers on the final day of the actual deadline, set at five weeks, not six, under national planning laws.
So they were shocked to then receive a notice falsely claiming they had missed the deadline.
Fortunately this was recognised and the correct date of the hearing, on Tuesday, June 17 was revealed by Abbey ward councillors.
E-mail correspondence obtained via the Freedom of Information act from Tony Ryan, the council's planning officer formerly in charge of the case, reveals he was concerned about the development in August last year, despite going on to recommend it to councillors.
Mr Ryan wrote to an undisclosed recipient: "Officers have concerns about the impact of the building on the amenities of adjacent residential occupiers and the character of this area in terms of the scale, bulk and massing of the proposed building."
He also expressed his concerns about the "visual intrusion caused by the height of the rear wall of the new building that is in close proximity to the open rear gardens of adjacent two-storey properties."
Andrew Boyce, Morden Road resident who lives in a studio flat at threat of being overshadowed by the development, said: "We support the elected representatives' decision and they supported our concerns.
"We are less impressed by the poor handling of the decision by the planning officers because we do really call into question how this was recommended given their concerns.
"They couldn't get the date of the meeting right, the decision to recommend it in the first place given their concerns and the fact they are not up-to-date with the legislation that governs their work is worrying."
At a full council meeting on Wednesday night, Councillor Andrew Judge said: "Clearly there was an error in the information that was sent out on 34-40 Morden Road for which I offer my apologies on behalf of the council."
Cottages in Morden Road earmarked for demolition by developers
Derek Manning, 63, who has lived in The Path since 1985, said: "The people who live in these flats, some of them have lived there for 12 or 13 years and they are genuinely concerned about being homeless.
"They are the oldest surviving buildings in South Wimbledon, dating from 1810 to 1820 and we don't want to see them removed because they have been family housing for over two centuries and we don't think it's right we should be losing family housing to something like a hotel which offers nothing to the local community.
"There's an established community here and we actually know each other and communicate. It's like a village which is not easy to find in London so you can see we've got reason to feel we are not being treated fairly and properly by the developers."
Residents have also objected to the proposal on grounds it is high-density, short-term accommodation, offering reduced access to light to neighbouring properties, limited parking spaces and inappropriate land use for South Wimbledon.
The council is waiting for an independent planning inspector to decide whether to approve the redevelopment.