Plan for Housing on Raynes Park Sport Ground Blocked

Council rules against scheme on LESSA site after hundreds of objections

Visualisation of the development planned near Grand Drive. Picture: Bellway

June 20, 2022

Plans for more than 100 homes on an old sports ground have been rejected by Merton Council after hundreds of locals objected.

The former LESSA (London Electricity Sports and Social Association) in Raynes Park was a private ground for the use of company employees and closed down in 2000.

Since then, it has been fenced off and is not accessible to the public. Part of the land, off Grand Drive, makes up a flood plain and Merton Council officers said any development would increase the risk of flooding.

More than 260 locals objected to the plans from Bellway Homes, which were for a mix of three-storey town houses and four-storey apartment blocks. The application also included a games pitch, outdoor gym and two new tennis courts.

Merton Council’s planning committee went against the officers’ recommendation and refused the application at a meeting on Thursday (June 16). Councillors concluded the negatives would outweigh the positives of the development.

A document from Wimbledon United Cricket Club, said it tried to buy the land, making a formal offer to Bellway in 2020. A letter from Keith Brown, headteacher at Willington Prep School said they also tried to buy the land.

At the meeting, John Elvidge, chairman of the Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents’ Association, said that locals have been “betrayed” by the developer. He said: “Bellway has throughout refused to discuss with clubs or schools around any use of the ground for junior sports. Instead they have fenced it off in the hope that in time they can extract more profit by further development.

“The land has been unused for sport only because Bellway prevented this. They should not be allowed to profit by their cynical action. There is now a consortium of two cricket clubs and a primary school desperate to use the ground but their costed proposals have been dismissed by Bellway. These proposals are strongly supported by Sport England who have formally objected to this application.”

Councillors also heard from Julian Goodban, regional planning director for Bellway Homes, who spoke in support of the application. He said: “The site has not been used for 22 years, its repurpose will make a positive use of a vacant land providing new and much needed housing.

“Although there is no requirement for Bellway to use the land for any purpose the proposal combines a successful blend of housing, a significant area of open space, recreation and publicly accessible sporting uses.

“In terms of the housing element, the scheme will provide 12 per cent of Merton’s 10-year housing target and provides a good mix of apartments and family housing, with 41 per cent of units provided as affordable housing.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for West Barnes Hina Bokhari claimed the “majority” of the 73 people that signed a petition in support of the development did not live in the area. She said the loss of green space would increase carbon emissions and create a flood risk.

Councillor Bokhari said those in Greenway and West Way, who were flooded “continually”, would be put at risk.

Councillors voted against the plans with six votes to four. The reasons cited were that a loss of open space and potential sporting facility outweighed the benefits of the scheme.

Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter