Dundonald School Expansion Step Nearer To Go-Ahead

Judicial Review Finds In Favour Of Council

Plans to expand a primary school into a popular Wimbledon recreation ground are now a step nearer going ahead after the decision of a Judicial Review.

Plans to increase the size of Dundonald Primary from a one-form entry to a two-form entry school, by replacing Dundonald Recreation Ground's pavilion with a two-storey building have been opposed by the Protect Dundonald Rec (PDR) campaign.

PDR claimed the school could not legally expanded because of a restricted covenant on the Rec (pictured below) and was granted a Judical Review over the the council's decision to appropriate land (thereby removing public rights) and lawfulness of the decision to and put up signs which restrict public access to the tennis courts and bowling greens will take place.

High Court Judge Mr Justice King rejected PDR's claim over the decision to appropriate land when his Judicial Review was published on July 31. But PDR have vowed to continue protesting against the plans.

The expansion plans had been put forward by Merton Council as part of a series of measures to find more primary school places in Merton.

In his 25-page Judicial Review, Mr Justice King said the land in question was no longer required for recreational use because the demands could be met by a Community Use Agreement and by other facilities at John Innes Park.

He also said the council's officers had compared and balanced public interests. "To put it another way, the public interest in having a sporting facility did not require the land to remain in recreation use", he said.

His review of the lawfulness of the council's decision to lock entrances to the bowling green and put up signs stating it had been closed and the tennis courts were only for public use outside of school hours also went in favour of the council.

But this was because both parties agreed that PDR's claim over these actions would fail if the first Judicial Review had also found against them. Mr Justice King did say he was "minded" that the council's actions over the signs and the locking of the entrances was "unlawful".

But in a three-page report he said it was unnecessary for him to go further because of the decision of his first Judicial Review.

Another hearing will take place on September 2 before work can start on the expansion, if it gets the go-ahead.

Next month's hearing is an oral hearing in the Courts of Appeal over an earlier finding that the actual planning decision could not go to Judicial Review. It is understood that decision will be made on the day.

Merton Council cabinet member for education Councillor Martin Whelton said: "We welcome the decision of the High Court which shows we have acted both properly and fairly, as we work to fulfil our obligation to provide enough school places to educate children at an outstanding school, close to where they live. There is still a lot of work to be done and another hearing which is required in September, means that we will need to take further legal advice and keep the situation under review as we consider the next steps to take."

He said that, if the September hearing goes in the council's favour, then work will take just over a year and will be nearly complete by the start of the school year in 2015.

Lorraine Maries, Chairman of PDR, said about the Judicial Review into the signage: "Dundonald School's "exclusive rights" were unlawful, as were the signs which excluded the public from the tennis courts and bowling green.

"This is a serious issue which has a major impact in other parts of Merton where schools have been granted "exclusive use" of public land to which bylaws apply. The Council's wrongful insistence that they had a right to restrict public access shows a tenuous grasp of the law and a complete disregard for public rights."

She said the court had granted the right to submit an appeal request by August 14, and they were now considering the next steps.

"Councillors and Council Officers have persistently misled and deceived the public, the school
governors, parents and their own internal committees. Now we have seen false statements
submitted to the High Court. Once the legal processes are complete we will act on this and
intend to pursue our complaints with the relevant authorities including the Local Government
Ombudsman," she added.

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August 4, 2014