Council Decision Due On Dundonald School

Protestors pack Council Chamber

Protestors campaigning against plans to expand a primary school into Dundonald Recreation Ground won rounds of applause in a packed Merton council chamber.

They were addressing a council scrutiny panel which has recommended the expansion of Dundonald Primary School in Wimbledon to help tackle the borough's shortage of school places.

The Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel held the meeting on Thursday (September 15) to give councillors and interested parties a chance to question the findings of their report.

It has followed a consultation process, including two public meetings and the analysis of responses to the consultation document, which closed in June.

Thursday's meeting was told that council officers had found that the extra school places, in which the school would increase from one-form to two-form entry, were needed because of the growth in the number of children in the area.

It was claimed that planned scheme, in which the recreation ground's pavilion would be replaced by a two-storey building providing both school and pavilion facilities, would also be an enhancement for the local community.

But Lorraine Maries, chairman of the Protect Dundonald Rec Campaign, won a round of applause when she told the meeting: "Dundonald School cannot legally expand because of the Rec's restricted covenant. It is a lost cause."

She added: "We think the consultation process has been flawed. We believe some responses were misclassified and over 62% were against and 21% in favour of building on the Rec.

"It is not our role to suggest other sites, but I do not think the short-term expansion of a small, local, school in an increasingly crowded area is the best option."

Councillor Suzanne Grocott, who represents Dundonald ward, said: "The majority of emails and letters I have received have been against the expansion of Dundonald School. The council must stop this desperation to build on green spaces. The law needs to be upheld and prevent this landgrab greep".

Sarah Willis, council senior lawyer, said the issue of the covenant had been considered carefully and there was a "good case" for modifying the covenant on the grounds of public interest.

She said the legal process would "more likely be at the lower end of the timescale, rather than a long and drawn out process". She said it could take six to 12 months.

The minutes of the meeting will now be forwarded to the council's Cabinet, who will meet on Monday (September 19) to make their decision on the plans.

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September 16, 2011