Controversial School Expansion Discussed

More than 200 attend public meeting

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A second consultation meeting to discuss controversial plans to expand a Wimbledon primary school by extending it into a neighbouring park was attended by more than 200 people.

Merton council proposes to expand Dundonald Primary School to a two-form entry school from September 2012 so it can admit up to 60 pupils a year in two classes.

The proposed expansion follows a significant increase in demand for school places in Merton, with more children entering school age, fuelled by a birth rate that has risen by over 30% in the last six years.

The council is putting three expansion proposals up for consultation, all of which wrap-around the school's two-storey annex which is next to Dundonald Park.

The meeting involved a statement from the Protect Dundonald Rec group, in which their spokesman said they were a non-political group concerned about the loss of green space, including a pavillion, in a heavily-populated area.

They suggested there were other sites where new schools could be opened or 'satellite' sites build, as well as questioned the need for places from local children.

Councillor Peter Walker, the cabinet member for education, made the point that that people living in Herbert Road couldn’t currently get a place for their children in Dundonald School.

He said that "no change" was the easier option, but felt that the plans "positively improved the park" and that the pavillion was "ugly and out of date".

Tom Proctor, the council's manager of contracts and school organisation, said more than half of the schools in the borough will need to expand because of the lack of primary school places. He also pointed out that this was the first stage of the consultation process. The decision would be taken by the council's September cabinet meeting, with further consultation to follow.

During the question-and-answer session, several local people with young children spoke in favour of the plans. A number of people raised the issue of plans for the future, and applause broke out with a suggestion that something new needed to be put in place of the covenant to protect the Recreation Ground for the future.

The council's new deadline for responses to its consultation is Monday July 11 - an extension on the original date of June 28.

A petition objecting to the proposals now has more than 1,300 signatures on the council's website. And a petition on the Protect Dundonald Rec's website has more than 1,700 signatures.

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June 27, 2011