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This page contains background information on the early history of the campaign from 1982, and plans for the AMH site up to June 2011

Berkeley Homes consultations and planning applications

The AMH site was sold to Berkeley Homes plc around the end of April 2010. In addition to the hospital buildings, the purchase included the former nurses' homes (the Firs) and the Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) to the south. The Wolfson Neurorehabilitation Centre is not part of the site, and remains as a St. George's NHS Trust facility.

Having purchased the site, Berkeley Homes plc held an introductory workshop on 16th June 2010, to review the current situation and gather opinion from those most impacted by the site.
Invitations were sent to approximately 550 households, including those on Cottenham Park Road, Cranford Close, Copse Hill (along the site boundary), Drax Avenue, Almer Road, Grange Park Place, Thurston Road, Prospect Place and Rokeby Place.

Subsequently, Berkeley Homes set up a page for the AMH project on their web-site: www.atkinson-morley.com in order to communicate more widely.

Berkeley Homes developed new proposals for a residential development which were presented at a public exhibition on October 1st and 2nd 2010. Following a further a period of public consultation, Berkeley has now submitted new planning applications to the London Borough of Merton. All interested parties were urged to attend a second public exhibition February 18th and 19th 2011 to view and respond to the latest proposals. Information about the consultations and latest plans were published on the Berkeley Homes website (hyperlink above)

The planning application was published on Merton Council's web-site:
http://planning.merton.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorerAA/GeneralSearch.aspx

11/P0346 Registered 09/03/2011
DEMOLITION OF EXTENSION TO FORMER HOSPITAL BUILDING, EXISTING OUTBUILDING ON SITE AND THE RESIDENTIAL ACCOMMODATION AT THE FIRS. RESIDENTIAL REDEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING BOTH NEW BUILD AND THE CONVERSION AND REFURBISHMENT OF THE FORMER ATKINSON MORLEY HOSPITAL BUILDING, TO PROVIDE A TOTAL OF 79 residential UNITS INCLUDING BOTH PRIVATE AND AFFORDABLE DWELLINGS, TO PROVISION OF 261M2 D2 (GYMNASIUM) USE, 144 CAR PARKING SPACE, NEW ACCESS POINTS FROM COPSE HILL, LANDSCAPING AND ASSOCIATED WORKS. RESURFACING OF EXISTING 27 CAR PARKING SPACES ADJACENT TO COTTENHAM PARK ROAD, REMODELING OF EXISTING SPORTS PITCHES, REFURBISHMENT AND EXTENSION OF THE EXISTING SCOUT HUT, REPLACEMENT OF THE EXISTING SPORTS PAVILION WITH NEW CHANGING ROOM FACILITY, LANDSCAPING, DRAINAGE WORKS AND OTHER ASSOCIATED WORKS.

On 10th June 2011, a number of changes were announced to the planning application above, of which the principal ones are:

  • Significant change to sports pitch proposals to make minimal changes to levels consistent with providing suitable gradients and drainage
  • Extension to sports pavilion
  • Replacement of existing cottage at Cottenham Park Road end of footpath with new cottage of comparable size more centrally located on the plot (as opposed to previously proposed refurbishment)
  • Reduction in massing and change in design to houses on the southern edge of The First site
  • Significant reduction in hard paving and increase in soft landscaping on the main hospital site and The firs
  • Provision of additional balcony amenity space
  • Additional ecological information surveys
  • Additional information regarding surface water arrangements including commitment to maintain attenuation pond

11/P0050 Registered 12/01/2011
PROVISION OF A REPLACEMENT BUS TURNING FACILITY ON WESTERN SIDE OF FRONTAGE

The planning applications were made available for inspection at the ground floor of reception of the Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden, Surrey SM4 5DX, between 9.00am-5pm Mondays to Fridays. The Duty Officer was available from 9am-11am Mondays to Fridays to discuss the application.

Feedback requested

The consultation period ended on 30th March, although comments submitted after this period were also said to be considered if practical where practical. The public were invited to make any comments about the plans to the Council, in writing or via email, quoting the Planning Officer's name, Sue Wright. In order to record correspondence against the application, individual names and addresses were requested. All comments were to be published for public viewing on the Council's web-site, although for security reasons correspondents were requested not sign letters or provide telephone numbers.

Residents were also invited to contact their local Residents' Association or the LUNG Committee who are representing local residents collectively. During the past year, the LUNG Committee met with both Berkeley Homes and the Council about the emerging plans for the Site and was consulted on temporary works to the footpath and proposed security arrangements.

Feedback received on the latest planning application suggested that the built element of the plans was generally quite well received, but many people expressed concern at uncertainty over plans for the open land.

Berkeley Homes had been developing a business plan for the open land based on the assumption that it would be owned and managed by a Community Trust. The Council then announced that it proposed to take on the freehold of the open land, but did not inform LUNG its management plans for the site, giving rise to continued concerns about drainage and the quality of the land, as well as the financial sustainability of the site.

It was essential that management and business plans for the open land were developed, with potential income and expenditure assessed, before planning consent was granted.  The consent was to include conditions on works that the developer committed to doing on the open land, and the financial contributions they were required to make.  These conditions are known as a Section 106 agreement. To ensure a sustainable outcome for the open land the works need to be specified appropriately, and provision made to cover any excess of expenditure over income in the Section 106 agreement.

Click on the links below to see copies of:

(a) a leaflet that has been distributed  by LUNG and the local residents' associations to all homes close to the site expressing concern about various issues such as dumping of spoil from excavations onto the playing fields, inadequate provision of drainage systems, and the financial sustainability of the open land.

(b) a letter to the Council explaining the issues that we feel need to be addressed with regard to the open land, and offering our support with this;

(c) a letter to Thames Water expressing concern at the proposal to take waste water and sewage from the new development south across the open land to Cottenham Park Road where there have already been problems with drainage.
 

 

 

EARLIER BACKGROUND 

How did it all start?

In 1982, Merton council prepared a Planning Brief which proposed that all the sports pitches (upper and lower levels) and the site of the current Scout HQ should be used for housing. A hastily prepared and vigorous campaign defeated the plan and it was withdrawn.

Over the next 20 years, the NHS then started to dispose and redevelop other property assets in the Copse Hill area:

  • Wimbledon Cottage Hospital (Thurstan Road) became Grange Park Place
  • Numbers 19-23 and their gardens (formerly used as Nurses’ homes) became High Cedar Drive, Possil House and Birch Lodge
  • Cottenham House and 4 acres of land were redeveloped as Prospect Place

The land and buildings of the Atkinson Morley’s Hospital, as well as surrounding land owned by the St. George’s NHS Trust, were also identified as surplus and it was decided they should be sold or otherwise disposed of. A total of 23 acres (8.85 hectares) was declared surplus to requirements

Mr. Atkinson Morley had donated the land to St. George’s Hospital with the objective of improving the health of the people of London. It became apparent that if these residual 23 acres of the original 230-acre of the Earl of Cottenham were to be saved, a concerted effort would be required by the community. Greater protection for both open land and the Victorian hospital were achieved through designation as: Conservation Area  (1990), Part of the woodland and lawn to the south of the hospital as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) (1994), Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) (1994), making it equivalent to Green Belt.

A substantial portion of the site, an area of 17 acres (6.99 hectares), is therefore unsuitable for development, as it is designated as a Conservation Area and Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) under the Unitary Development Plan which is followed by the London Borough of Merton in matters of planning consent.  In addition,  approximately 3 acres of the MOL portion is also designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).  

A record number of responses were despatched  from the community to the UDP consultation in support of MOL status. Further liaison between the various local voluntary groups followed with the formation of the umbrella group, LUNG, under the leadership of Nick Smith and a charitable trust, Morley Park Trust was registered in recognition of the benefactor,

Merton Council's latest Planning Brief for the AMH site was approved in July 2003, replacing the earlier Chapter 9 Annex to the Unitary Development Plan which was then adopted in October 2003..  The Planning Brief constitutes formal Supplementary Planning Guidance, and should be taken into account by owners, potential developers and all other interested parties when considering opportunities for future use of the site.

LUNG's vision for Morley Park
LUNG's committee have drafted a vision for the open land that attempts to take into account

  • what people have told us at public meetings

  • the messages from the Planning for Real exercise

  • what we have learned from other examples where public land has been transferred to Development Trusts to manage the facilities for the benefit of the community

  • the need to ensure the scheme is financially viable

LUNG's Business Plan for the Morley Park Trust
The Wimbledon Society, the Residents’ Association of West Wimbledon, and the North West Wimbledon Residents’ Association engaged in numerous discussions with a wide range of interested parties regarding potential future ownership, management and use of various portions of the MOL site, together with issues relating to funding needs and sources.

In April 1999, the above organisations submitted to the Atkinson Morley Task Force, the St. George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, and the London Borough of Merton, a draft proposal and business plan for the areas designated as Metropolitan Open Land.  The most appropriate and broadly acceptable solution was considered to be a privately funded public park (owned by a charitable trust) for the benefit of the community and local wildlife.  

The Morley Park Trust Ltd (MPT) was established, and a team of specialist volunteers, led by Philip Black, put together a new business plan which addresses both the capital costs of setting up the Park and the running costs into the future.

The team were helped by considerable professional input from Merton Council, the Wimbledon Conservators, and others in regard to costings for the upgrade and maintenance of the woodland areas and playing fields. They also explored partnerships that could defray costs to the MPT for such areas as the playing fields, as well as outlining income potential for the site, in keeping with the principles that have already been set out.

Transport  and Footpath
The path is also part of an important pedestrian route linking Copse Hill to Raynes Park. Maintaining the path through the site is central to LUNG’s vision for the future of the site. This is essential to provide ease of access for residents living both to the north and the south of the park, and especially for young families living to the north of the site where there is no public playground for children.  

The AMH site is also on the 200 bus route which goes from Mitcham to Raynes Park via Wimbledon Town and Village.  There is currently a turning circle for the bus on the Hospital site, by the Copse Hill entrance.  This bus service is currently much used by both hospital staff and local residents. LUNG has conducted a survey to establish patterns of use, and residents’ views about what should happen to this bus service when the hospital closes.
 

St. George's Trust planning applications:
First planning applications August 2003:

On 4th August 2003, the NHS Trust submitted four planning applications. Click here for a summary including diagrams, and LUNG's observations

Revised planning application November 2004:
The Trust submitted a planning application November 2004 which was met with vigorous opposition from local residents, and LUNG raised a number of significant concerns and questions.

Final planning applications approved October 2005:
Following the defeat of planning applications in August 2003 and November 2004, St. George's Trust submitted a further Planning Application December 2004. Further protests from the community resulted in amendments in August 2005. The amended application was approved in October 2005

 

Sale of the Atkinson Morley site announced April 2006
St. George's Trust puts Atkinson Morley site on the market November 2005.
Having obtained planning permission despite vigorous objections from LUNG and others, St Georges immediately marketed the AMH site in November 2005.
Developers had until Tuesday 20th December 2005 to submit sealed bids. Some interested parties, as part of their preparations, discussed with us what the local sensitivities are and others completely ignored local discussion prior to the bid being made. Obviously LUNG had no formal role in this process, but it was worrying that many interested parties did not think it worth the discussion.

The sale of The Atkinson Morley's site, which included The Firs flats but excluded the Wolfson Rehabilitation Unit, took took place on April 2006. St. George's Trust announced that the Atkinson Morley and Firs sites were sold for a total of £20m to a private developer named Laguna Quays Ltd., a company registered in the Virgin Islands.  The change of ownership of the AMH site was recorded at the Land Registry, and LUNG  obtained a copy of the registration document (summary of key points attached).  Mr. Homer (Chief Executive) signed the document on behalf of the St Georges NHS Trust, and there were two signatories from Laguna Quays, whose names were, rather suspiciously, witheld from the public document.

The Trust's share of the sale was £15.1m, of which £11.5m must be returned to the Strategic Health Authority to pay off a loan that helped fund the new wing at St. George's Hospital, and £3.3M will be applied to improve St. George's finances.  http://www.stgeorges.nhs.uk/docs/StGeorgesGazette/GazetteIssue17.pdf

 In addition, the NHS took  a 2-year lease from Laguna Quays for 27 parking places close to Cottenham Park Road for the use of the Wolfson Rehabilitation Unit.


Laguna Quays exhibition of new draft proposals April 2007
Laguna Quays Ltd issued an open invitation to view draft proposals for redevelopment of the Atkinson Morley Hospital site at Christ Church Hall, 16 Copse Hill, Wimbledon on Monday 2nd April between 2.00-9.00pm.

The views expressed by attendees were mixed on the merits of the proposals for the built element of the scheme.  Many preferred the new Laguna Quays proposals for the built development to the previously-approved St Georges application; some were disappointed at the lack of housing provision, but most welcomed a return to use as a hospital.  However most also expressed concerns about the infringements of buildings and parking on metropolitan open land, the lack of any guarantees for the long term future use of the open land and public access to it, and the rerouting of the north/south path.  Another very common concern was the total lack of information on who Laguna Quays are. Those presenting the scheme at the exhibition were not from Laguna Quays but were architectural advisors and doctors employed by them as consultants. LUNG has written to Laguna Quays via their solicitors expressing these concerns and asking that a mechanism be devised to guarantee the restoration, maintenance and use of the Atkinson Morley open land. 
Letter from LUNG to Laguna Quays (07.05.07)
PROPOSED COMMENT ON LAGUNA QUAYS SCHEME

New planning application submitted by Laguna Quays (May 2007)
Laguna Quays Ltd. submitted a planning application to Merton Council on 24th May 2007 for redevelopment of the main hospital building as a private hospital specialising in fertility, paediatrics and maternity services. The Firs buildings will be developed fro re-use as staff and visitor accommodation. See attached update setting out LUNG's point of view.

Public Meeting to discuss latest developments (September 2007)
The meeting on 26th September 2007, at Christ Church Hall, Cottenham Park Road, was chaired by Village Ward Councillors, and was also attended by Stephen Hammond MP. Representatives of Laguna Quays distributed a handout in response to the flyer circulated by LUNG, RAWW and NWWRA expressing a number of concerns

At the meeting, the community were supportive of the proposal to use the site for a private hospital but expressed strong concerns about the proposals for the open land, especially the fencing of the proposed rerouted path on both sides and the lack of informal access to the open land. Council officers stated that their recommendations for the open land and the requirements relating to the open land that should go into a section 106 agreement.  They invited local residents to submit their proposals for the open land facilities, public access and footpath design.

Revised planning application (October 2007)
Laguna Quays Limited submitted a revised planning application making small amendments to the proposals for the hospitals buildings. Read the letter from Nick Smith, Chairman of LUNG, providing more information and details of how to respond to these proposals.

Planning application for private hospital approved (13th December 2007)
The AMH applications appeared on the Merton Council website (07/P1344 and 07/P1347).
Planning application 07/P1347 was approved at Merton Council's Planning Committee on 13th December  2007, and minutes of the meeting published. The application for a private hospital was approved, subject to additional conditions.

The minutes confirmed our understanding of the extra conditions, and additional items in the S106 agreement  The precise wording on all of this was left to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Committee but, as minuted:

Additions to S106 heads of terms
(i) Special arrangements for the scouts to have access to the playing fields/open land [they would otherwise have to pay the going rate for any regular or booked use]; and
(ii) arrangements for the general public to have access to the playing fields/open land [this is intended to cover casual, unbooked enjoyment of the area]

Amendments to the conditions;            
Extra condition(s) requiring the improvements to the MOL (Metropolitan Open Land) to be implemented simultaneously with the reopening of the hospital [critical to ensure the implementation of improvements to the MOL]

Additional conditions:
- Path available 24 hours but unlit
- 1.5 mature trees to be planted for every one removed

Amendments to the reasons for approval:
The Committee agreed that, subject to the details being agreed further to the delegation, the Reasons for Approval be amended to clarify the Committee "recognises that the proposed development involves further intrusion into the MOL (Metropolitan Open Land), but considers that there are exceptional circumstances in this specific case, namely the proposed use being for hospital purposes and the development including the removal of various existing buildings located within the MOL land". [this might provide some protection from further intrusions into open land if there are any further applications]

Direct links to some of the key drawings:

The application submitted in 2007 by Laguna Quays was was approved subject to a section 106 agreement  as indicated above, but negotiations failed to reach completion due to lack of agreement on the Section 106. In the meantime the site became sadly neglected.

For around 2 years, the LUNG Committee had nothing concrete to report. LUNG approached local MP, Stephen Hammond, and asked him to ascertain where things stood with the AMH planning application. Click here for the Merton Council letter of 17 February 2009

In the meantime, residents concerned about the potential health and safety hazards posed by the dilapidated state of various parts of the AMH site were requested to write to Sarah Tarnburn at Merton Council (email: sarah.tanburn@merton.gov.uk; direct line 020 8545 3083).

 

Last Updated 28/03/12