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Atkinson Morley's Hospital Green Space
This page contains background information on the early history of the campaign from 1982, and plans for the AMH site up to October 2017
On 19 October 2017 the Council's Planning Applications Committee approved the application despite about 100 objections and strong evidence that the application did not comply with planning guidance. We will have a development on Copse Hill of such density, mass and height that it should only have been approved in a town centre with good transport links. It is the residents of Copse Hill and roads off it, and the visitors to Morley Park, who will suffer most but everyone in the area will see some impact from the extra pressure on local amenities and the very unfortunate precedent. There is also the risk of more flooding issues south of the development.
Residents of Wimbledon Hill Park, and especially those in Wellington Row, Dukes Gardens and Cedar Place, might be surprised to learn that their private hospital lawn was included in the area used by Berkeley Homes to calculate the density of development. One of the justifications given for this in the planning officer's report was that "occupiers of the units would also have access to the private south lawn to the south of the Atkinson Morley development".
Planning Application for 85 flats on the Wolfson site, Copse Hill (Planning application 16/P4853)
Currently Berkeley Homes has approval for 16 houses blocks, including one which is 6 storeys high and another 5 storeys high. There would be 96 parking spaces, with 86 of these in a semi-underground car park. The proposed development is of such height and density that it would only be appropriate in a town centre location with good transport links. This application is for a development in a conservation area, immediately adjacent to Metropolitan Open Land and to a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, and with poor transport links. As such it represents an enormous threat to our local area and would set a very dangerous precedent.
The application includes proposals for privileged access for the residents of the development into Morley Park. A gate from a private residents' garden would open onto a path leading to a landscaped area of this public park. Part of the land already agreed to be transferred to the Council as part of Morley Park is now proposed for inclusion in this development site ('Woolfson Lawn'), thus delaying its transfer by several years.
You can see the plans on Merton Council's Planning Explorer site. To start with you will need to put the planning application reference set out above in the search box to locate the application and then if you click on 'View Related Documents' it will take you to a web page which lists all the planning documents that you can view.
Some of the points raised in LUNG's letter of objection are summarised below:
Berkeley Homes has held an exhibition to present revised plans for the hospital site to local residents prior to submitting a planning application. There is a second chance to go to this exhibition and speak to Berkeley Homes' representatives on Thursday 22 August 2013 between 4.30 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. at Wimbledon Hill Park, Project Office, Copse Hill. This is just behind the new 200 bus stop.
Berkeley Homes advises that the revised plans have been made necessary by higher than expected costs to restore the old hospital building. Higher than expected costs are neither unusual nor a valid justification for a planning application which should be considered on its own merits against planning guidance.
Summary of the plans:
Morley Park Trust has met with the Council and Ursuline High School to learn about the school’s requirements for use of the playing fields and the Council’s latest proposals to procure the management of the park. The Council is currently discussing 2 options for the contractual arrangement with the school – either a 99 year lease (the Council’s standard duration for a lease), or a block booking arrangement, as is used elsewhere for schools using council-managed playing fields in parks. The headmistress has stated a preference for a 99 year lease. However, the school’s current plans for use of the playing fields are limited to school hours for a total of 18 weeks a year, so for the rest of the time they would be assuming a facilities management role for the sporting facilities. Our experience with the adjacent Oberon playing fields, managed on a similar basis, leaves us very concerned at the prospect of a long lease to a minority user of the Morley Park facilities. The playing fields are in a public park, not in a fenced off area to be accessed only by those who book the facilities. There is a need to ensure the holistic management of Morley Park, including the ecological area and woodland. Morley Park Trust has written to the Council seeking clarification and reassurance about the future management of the whole park.
The Wolfson site was sold to Berkeley Homes in March 2012. On 20th June 4.30-8pm, Berkeley Homes held a site re-development consultation at St. Matthew's Primary School to discuss their plans. They propose to submit a planning application to build 8 detached houses on the site.
Some of you may have noticed that the proposed name for the new Berkeley Homes development has been changed from Wellington Gate to Wimbledon Hill Park. This is confusing as neither Wimbledon Hill nor Wimbledon Park are nearby! Wellington did at least provide a link with the past, but the new name lacks any connection with the local history, geography or Morley Park. We have asked BH about it but not been given any reason for the new name.
We are very surprised, and concerned,
that the Council has approved a design for the path into Morley Park
from Copse Hill which includes a flight of 30 steep
steps. This would be unusable for pushchairs and people with a
disability. It would be dangerous for everyone in severe winter
conditions. Morley Park Trust has sent a
letter to the Council requesting a quick rethink on
the design of this route, which under current plans will be the only
path onto the park from Copse Hill.
LUNG is working
with the Council and prospective park users so we can develop our plans
to the point where we can make a formal bid to manage the park. As a
part of this we organised a Morley Park Walk and Exhibition on Sunday
29th April to show people the site, explain the plans so
far, answer questions, and gather support.
cabinet meeting on 16th January, Merton
Council considered an initial paper
on on the future options to manage Morley Park. The paper's general
recommendations were approved but these do not make a specific
recommendation as to who should manage the park. There
will be another council paper on community trusts in the summer, and the
council has yet to establish the process by which the management of the
park will be determined, so we do not know when the process will be
What was established at the cabinet meeting is that the council:
The cabinet paper describes 3 options for the overall management of the site:
The author of the paper is a council officer in the department that would be responsible for the management if the council was selected to manage it.
Surprisingly, the paper identifies no potential risks in a 'single sports or educational establishment administering the whole site', although it will be a public park and includes woodland which is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and an ecology area. LUNG believe that this new public park can only be administered by an organisation that has the breadth of skills to manage all parts of the park (woodland, ecology area, playing fields) and facilities that will be shared by all park users (car park, public paths, boundaries, bins etc).
Whoever manages the park must have the ambition and motivation to balance the needs of all park users and the amenity of local residents. LUNG believe that a community trust would be very well placed to do this and presented the case for this in some detail in our 'Proposal for a Community Trust to Manage Morley Park'.
You will see from our proposal that we have a strong team prepared to donate their services to the Trust and a detailed analysis of the expected costs and potential income. Management by a trust would not preclude having subcontracts or leases for the use of specific facilities.
The new Localism Act gives local residents' groups the right to insist that councils give their proposals for managing local resources serious consideration, and the Merton Labour party manifesto said they would encourage the use of Community Trusts to run local resources. This scheme is an opportunity to convert these political aims into a local reality.
The link below is to a plan of the whole Atkinson Morley site with an explanation of which parts of it will be included in the new park.
Morley Park: The Council Cabinet again deferred their discussion about the management of the new Morley Park.
Atkinson Morley and Firs built development: The Section 106 agreement, which sets the conditions attached to the planning approval has now been signed. The terms specified in the Section 106 include the specifications for the works Berkeley homes will do to the open land before they hand the freehold of the new park over to the Council. This means that construction work on the hospital and Firs sites can now start. Work can also start on the demolition and rebuilding of the sports pavilion and cottage at the southern end of the open land.
Planned closure of the Wolfson:
At their Cabinet meeting on 28th November, Merton Council were scheduled to make a recommendation on the future management of Morley Park (the new park to be created on the Metropolitan Open Land of the former Atkinson Morley Hospital site). The decision was deferred to 13th December pending further investigation.
Council officers submitted their paper for the Cabinet Meeting.
It is a negative report, recommending
that the management of Morley Park should be retained by the Council,
instead of being entrusted to a Community Trust (Morley Park Trust).
LUNG responded to the officers’ report. We were particularly
disappointed that council officers completely ignored the
obligations under the new Localism Act and indeed fail to even inform
the Cabinet of the existence of the Act.
Click here for the first Berkeley Homes newsletter to residents outlining the schedule of works to be done on the site over the next few months. It tells us that the development on both the hospital and Firs site is to be known as Wellington Gate. This is presumably a reference to the second Duke of Wellington who lived at Prospect Place for a few years in the 1850s, having bought it from Charles Pepys (Earl of Cottenham).
The Berkeley Homes planning application was approved on 21st July and, unlike the two previous applications, this one will be implemented!
Overall, we feel the outcome is very positive for both the built and open land parts of the site.
The approved plans include restoration of the open land, much of which will become a new public open space ('Morley Park') incorporating 3 sports pitches and a pavilion.
Click here for further details of the plan
Berkeley Homes consultations and planning applications
The AMH site was sold to
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.
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:
11/P0346 Registered 09/03/2011
On 10th June 2011, a number of changes were announced to the planning application above, of which the principal ones are:
11/P0050 Registered 12/01/2011
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.
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;
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.
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:
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
Business Plan for the Morley Park Trust
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.
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
St. George's Trust
Revised planning application
Final planning applications
approved October 2005:
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.
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
New planning application submitted by Laguna
Quays (May 2007)
Public Meeting to discuss latest developments
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
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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; direct line 020 8545 3083).
|Last Updated 03/02/18|