Campaigners claim school cannot legally expand
Campaigners fighting against plans to expand a primary school into a popular Wimbledon recreation ground have been granted the right to 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 are being opposed by the Protect Dundonald Rec (PDR) campaign.
The plans had been put forward as part of a series of measures to find more primary school places in Merton.
Merton Council's Cabinet approved the plans in 2012, with a commitment that the development does not set a precedent for future building in the park.
But PDR says the school cannot legally expanded because of a restricted covenant on the Rec (pictured left).
The campaign group was told on Friday (March 28) that a Judicial Review of the council's decision to appropriate land (thereby removing public rights) and putting up signs which restrict public access to the tennis courts and bowling greens will take place. But there will be no Judicial Review on the planning decision.
The court was told the council had spent £393,640 on external contractors for the design work on the expansion.
Lorraine Maries, Chairman of PDR, said: "I'm thrilled by this positive step - this is the first time in three years that Merton's actions in this matter have been properly scrutinised by an independent body.
"We are confident that at the final hearing, the High Court will recognise the irrationality of Merton's claims."
Lee Broomfield, Chairman of the Friends of Dundonald Park, added: "The Court’s decision is fantastic news for the many, many people who enjoy our local green space, and sports facilities.
"It is simply not right to take a large chunk of public land from the Rec, the Council now has to stop and listen to the local community, who do not want their Rec shrunk and sporting activities curtailed."
But Merton Council cabinet member for education, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: "We are pleased that the court agreed there was no case to answer with regards to the planning decision to expand Dundonald Primary School. We are also pleased that the judge agreed that a further hearing on the appropriation decision and bye laws challenge should be heard as soon as possible due to the urgency around providing extra school places for September 2015.
"Admissions offer day for September 2014 is just over two weeks away when we will be writing to parents about their reception year places. It will be upsetting to some parents living close to Dundonald School that we will not be able to offer the extra places for September 2014, but we are determined parents won’t be disappointed for September 2015."
Councillor Peter Walker, who was involved in the orginal plans, added: "Contrary to what Save our Rec claim, not one square metre of extra land will be built on, as the footprint of the existing decrepit pavillion and other small buildings will be used to expand the school.
"In addition, as the existing redundant bowling green will be opened up for an expanded children's play area,and extra tennis court, there will actually be more accessible public space for local residents and children."
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April 1, 2014