Responses from Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators
A number of questions have been raised during the election period both by Candidates and electors. Below are some responses, as agreed with the returning officer, to specific questions relating to the former Putney Lower Common
Hospital site and The Spencer Public House.
FORMER PUTNEY HOSPITAL SITE
History: Wimbledon and Putney Commons is a 460 hectare open space owned and managed by the Wimbledon and Putney Conservators as a registered charity. Under the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act 1871, the Conservators are obliged to manage the Commons, protect them and make them available as open space.
From 1911 the Putney Hospital situated on land surrounded by Putney Lower Common served the local community and provided residential accommodation for nurses at the rear of the site. The hospital was closed in 1999 and the site has remained derelict ever since. The hospital site is now owned by Wandsworth Council and the current proposal is to build a primary school to serve the local community, with new residential accommodation at the rear of the site.
For the entire time the site was in use as a hospital there were access roads that crossed Common’s land. Over the 90 years the site was used as a hospital there were several changes in these access arrangements but at no time was land forming part of the Common ever sold to facilitate access arrangements.
Q. Have the Conservators sold Common land to Wandsworth Council?
A. No land forming part of Putney Lower Common has been sold to allow the derelict hospital site to be redeveloped. Indeed, it is illegal for Conservators to sell or exchange Common land. The Conservators have granted a right of access over the Common (substantially along the current road to the east of the hospital site) permitting access for the benefit of adjoining land; this is known as an easement. Around the Commons there are many locations where routes cross Common land to enable access to properties, particularly in Wimbledon Village.
Q. What are the lighting proposals for the site?
One of the most contentious issues is that of lighting. The developers submitted an application for lighting on Common land that was subsequently published on Wandsworth Council’s planning website.
The proposals in the application were completely unsuitable for the area and the Conservators wish to make it clear that this application was submitted without their knowledge or agreement. It included proposals for a significant number of street lamps that are totally unnecessary. Following strenuous objections by the Chief Executive, Simon Lee, it was withdrawn by the developers and removed from the Council’s Planning website. The Conservators have requested that options for lighting are produced which will be low-level and discreet. The Chief Executive proposes to host a meeting at Putney Lower Common for local residents to get their views, once the options are available.
Q. Did the Conservators get the best possible value for the easement?
A. The Conservators have, throughout their involvement, initially with the Primary Care Trust and latterly with Wandsworth Council, obtained independent legal and valuation advice from professional firms with a national/international reputation and have at all times acted in the utmost good faith and in the best interests of the Commons and Levy-payers.
Q. What was the valuation for the easement?
A. The professional advice that the Conservators obtained initially set the valuation for the easement with the Primary Care Trust at £250,000 for the proposal to build a Primary Care Centre and residential flats, but this was subsequently increased to £350,000 for the proposal put forward by Wandsworth Council to build a school and virtually identical residential flats, also bearing in mind that the Conservators received replacement land for both the road and the turning circle.
Q. Why did the Conservators apply only £1 for the school access and £349,999 for the residential easement?
A. The Conservators have always been mindful that the former hospital was provided as a public asset for the benefit of the local community. When the initial easement was agreed with the Primary Care Trust, the Conservators included a condition that the principal use of the site would be maintained as a medical centre for public benefit (“substantially providing health services free at the point of delivery”), and could not be changed to a private medical centre.
On that basis they set a commercial rate for the residential easement and only £1 for the medical centre access. If the Primary Care Trust ever sought to change the use to a private medical facility the Conservators would then seek a commercial rate for this access right over Common land. Subsequently they applied the same principal for Wandsworth Council’s proposal to build a school “substantially providing education free at the point of delivery” and private
residential flats. If the school ever became fee-paying, a new easement would be required for which the Conservators would set a commercial rate.
Q. How much land will be returned to Common as part of the approved scheme?
A. Approximately 1 acre of land will be laid out to open grassland and trees for public to access as part of the Common. This includes land that formed roads and facilities to serve the old hospital that were on Common land. In addition, an area of new land at the northern end of the hospital site that formed part of the former nurses residential block, will be laid out to Common. This was negotiated by the Conservators and the Primary Care Trust.
The existing tarmac road to the east of the hospital, and a part of the current road from Commondale, will be substantially retained and refurbished within its existing footprint to allow vehicles to access the new primary school and flats.
A turning circle for traffic will be provided at the northern end of the retained access road, which will take up a very small area of the existing Common. Although this land will remain part of the Co mmon, the Conservators have made it a requirement that an equal amount of compensatory land is added to the existing portfolio of Common land to extend the amount of public open space available for public exercise and recreation. Land has been identified adjacent to Stag Lane.
Q. What will happen to the woodland belt along the western boundary of the Common that provides an important screen?
A. This woodland is in need of management; there are several large trees that have fallen over and are in need of removal. Any woodland has to be managed to ensure its long term viability. These works will be funded as part of the capital costs for the development project, see our separate Putney Hospital Site
1.No land forming part of Putney Lower Common is being sold to allow this derelict site to be
2. Approximately 0.4ha of land that formed roads and facilities to serve the old hospital will be
returned to open meadow and trees and will be available for the public to access.
3. An additional area of new Common land at the northern end of the for mer hospital site was
given over the Conservators as part of the negotiations with the Primary Care Trust. This
land will be laid out to open meadow and trees and will be available for the public to access.
4.The existing tarmacked road to the east of the hospital and part of the current road from
Commondale will be substantially retained and refurbished within its existing footprint to
allow vehicles to access the new primary school and flats.
5. A turning circle for traffic will be provided at the northern end of the retained access road,
which will take up a very small area of the existing Commons.
6. Although this land will remain part of the Common, the Conservators have made it a
requirement that an equal amount of compensatory land is added to the existin g portfolio
of Common land to extend the amount of public open space available for public exercise
and recreation. This land is being made available at Stag Lane.
7. The woodland belt along the western boundary of the site is in need of management and
many of the trees require work to ensure their long term viability. This work will be funded
as part of this project.
8. Over the past three years over £120,000 of Levy-payers money has had to be used to
defend the legal action brought on behalf of The Friends of Putney Common.
9.Planning permission for the new school and residential accommodation has been granted
by Wandsworth Council.
10.The legal dispute has delayed the Conservators’ and the Council’s respective plans to
restore a part of the Commons that has been blighted for 15 years, and to provide a much
needed local amenity in additional classroom spaces for local children.
Q. What arrangements are in place with The Spencer covering placement of Tables and Chairs on
Putney Lower Common
A. There is a licence agreement between the Conservators and The Spencer, and they pay us a licence fee (RPI linked) to put up to 22 tables on Putney Lower Common within a designated area from 1 April to 31 October each year.
The picnic tables may be used by the general public (e.g. picnickers), not just customers of The Spencer.
No orders for food or drink may be taken from the tables, but food (not drink) ordered in The Spencer
may be delivered to the tables. They may not make any alteration to the Common other than to place
tables and chairs.
The Licensee must use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that all drinks consumed outside the pub are served in plastic rather than glass receptacles.
Any umbrellas used at the tables must be plain and not carry any advertising material and must be
brought indoors each evening following closure of the premises.
All litter, rubbish, food, cans, bottles and cigarette butts from the area must be removed at least twice a day and at the end of opening hours.
Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators
February 11, 2015