Merton Council’s plans for floodlit sports pitches in the grounds of the Canons at the heart of Cricket Green Conservation Area were given planning permission on 12 December.
This monstrous development rides a coach and horses through local planning policies intended to protect the Conservation Area.
None of our three ward councillors (Judy Saunders, Russell Makin and Ian Munn) spoke against the scheme and two publicly supported it.
We have therefore asked them to re-commit publicly to protection of the Conservation Area and to resist all development that damages its special qualities. Our open letter is below. We await the response.
17 December 2013
Dear Cricket Green Ward Councillor
Planning application for the floodlit MUGA, Canons
We are writing this open letter to you as Cricket Green councillors regarding the planning application for floodlit MUGAs at the Canons which was given permission at the planning committee on 12 December.
You will know that Mitcham Cricket Green Community and Heritage was shocked and disappointed that none of you spoke up to defend the Cricket Green Conservation Area against this intrusive development, including the light pollution which can now blight the area until 9.45pm outside the summer months.
Our charitable objects include our wish to ‘support and expand the recreational facilities for the benefit of the local people’. For example you will know of our ongoing support for Mitcham Cricket Club. We also champion the Conservation Area as you will have noted from our recent work to support its expansion to include Glebe Court.
We value both sport and heritage. We want to encourage the use of the Canons area for sports of all kinds – not just football – while protecting and enhancing the special character of the Conservation Area. The two aims are not incompatible.
We fully appreciate and support Cllr Judy Saunders’ particular interest in encouraging young people to play sports and her specific emphasis on encouraging school children to play football as a way of providing access to a wide range of social skills, community feeling and inherent fitness. We too believe sport, including team sport like football, is a great leveller, a way to break down social barriers and learn new skills.
Unfortunately we see no evidence that these MUGAs will be anything other than a commercial facility which will be unavailable to local people who may struggle to afford commercial hire rates.
We are very disappointed that at the planning committee none of you made any move to speak up for the Conservation Area. This is despite your repeated support for the Conservation Area on other occasions. We noted that Judy Saunders spoke in favour of the application, Ian Munn voted in favour and Russell Makin said nothing. We can only draw the conclusion that you do not value the Conservation Area and are not minded to defend it or to speak up for it at the time when that is needed most.
This lack of support undermines the trust we thought we had built up with you about the importance of the Conservation Area and our mutual desire to see it protected and enhanced.
However, let us move forward. We ask you to re-commit yourselves publicly to protection of the Conservation Area and to resist all development that fails to enhance it special qualities.
There are two ways in which you can now help mitigate the impact of the MUGA.
First, Judy Saunders emphasised the need to see what she termed in her spoken representation ‘affordable rates’ charged for local people. This was dismissed by officers on the grounds of not wanting to ‘fetter the council’ in terms of charging for use. Nobody on the planning committee stood up for Judy Saunders’ argument and we feel particularly let down by Ian Munn for failing to do so. This does not have to be implemented by a planning condition as the MUGA is the Council’s own development. We urge you all to ensure the facility is available to local people at an ‘affordable rate’ as a matter of Council policy.
Second, we urge you to seek a reduction in the hours when floodlighting might be used. The facility should not be floodlit seven days a week. We consider floodlighting should be permitted for a maximum of three days a week. Nor should floodlights be on as late as 9.45pm. We consider 9.00pm a much more appropriate time for floodlights to be switched off. Again this is entirely in the gift of the Council and you could exercise significant influence.
We look forward to your reply and to seeing your public re-commitment to Mitcham Cricket Green Conservation Area and to protecting it from development which fails to enhance it.
Chairman, Mitcham Cricket Green Community and Heritage