Wimbledon Park Suffers Through Council Delays

Watchdog orders compensation payment

Wimbledon Park residents should have a "sense of outrage" after delays made by Merton Council over the redevelopment of a community facility, according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

The council must pay £1,500 in compensation to the Wimbledon Park Residents' Association after a long-running saga in which the promised facilities have still not been built.

Wimbledon Park Memorial Hall was closed by the Merton Council in 2003 and put up for sale. The site was not sold to developers until 2008 and the hall was demolished soon afterwards (right).

The Association claimed the sale proceeds of around £1.1million should have been 'ring-fenced' to allow funds to be made available for a replacement community facility.

But the country went into recession not long after the original hall was demolished and funds for redevelopment were not available.

Local Government Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said in her report published today (February 24): "I consider that there were significant periods of inactivity by the Council in dealing with the sale of the land to [the developer]," which contributed to delays in a process resulting in planning permission finally being granted four years after the Council took the decision to redevelop the site in 2003.

Whilst recognising that external factors also affect the nature of redevelopment projects, she added: "It is reasonable for local residents to have had an expectation that the community facility would have been available well before now and I consider that they have a justifiable sense of outrage in this respect."

She pointed out that a condition of the sale was that the development works had to be completed within 48 weeks of the sale. The Council can take action against the developer if the development is not completed by May 2012.

Dr Martin did not uphold some other elements of the Residents' Association complaint.

A spokesman for Merton Council said: "We deal with many development proposals successfully and in a timely manner each year. Our property and planning teams have worked hard to try and make this particular development happen. We are disappointed that the Ombudsman has had cause to find against us in this particular case."

February 24, 2011