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Agenda item

Harris Academy, 59-63 High Path, Wimbledon, SW19 2JY


Application number: 18/P1921      Ward: Abbey


Officer Recommendation: GRANT Planning Permission subject to completion of a S106 Agreement and conditions



Granted Planning Permission subject to completion of a S106 Agreement and Conditions and additional requests imposed by the Committee and detailed in the Minutes


Proposal: Erection of a five storey building to provide a school, with sixth form facilities, associated parking, play area and landscaping, following demolition of existing community and commercial buildings on site.


The Committee noted the officer’s report and presentation and the additional information in both Supplementary Agendas.


The Committee received verbal representations from two objectors, who made points including:

·         Air Quality at this site is toxic, and will worsen in the future

·         Building a School on this site goes against the Cabinet decisions on Air Quality

·         Merton Abbey Primary School already suffers from the poor air quality. Children’s’ health is endangered by the air quality in this area

·         The sports provisions are not adequate

·         The DRP have given the design an Amber on two occasions

·         Additional Car Journeys will be generated by this development

·         The site is very tight.

·         There is a campaign to stop building Schools in toxic hotspots such as this one

·         The Developers suggest that the air quality will improve, but it won’t it will just get worse, particularly during construction

·         The mitigation measures do not remove the problems they just make them less bad


The Head teacher of the new Harris Wimbledon School spoke and made points including:

·         Harris are experienced education providers, who know how to make education work. This site is perfectly acceptable and meets all the School’s needs

·         Demand for places at the school has been so high that extra places have been added

·         Extensive consultation with the local community was carried out. Harris believe in collaboration with the community and all the proposed facilities will be available for community use

·         The school will operate staggered break times, which is acceptable within the guidelines

·         There is confidence about the journey to and from the Playing Fields

·         The majority of students will walk or cycle to school, and students will be rewarded for sustainable travel


The Applicant’s agent spoke and made points including:

·         The School has opened in temporary accommodation and only 10% of students arrive by car

·         The school has a robust travel plan, only minibuses and disabled parking will be allowed on site.

·         A financial contribution will be made to improve the local bus service

·         The site is highly sustainable being near to Tube station and tram stops

·         Air Quality has been monitored and is acceptable, the assessment is accurate and up to date. The development will be air quality neutral and the construction phase will be strictly controlled.


The Planning Team Leader South responded to Objectors points about Air Quality with reference to section 7.5 of the Officer’s report which detailed how the proposal sought to meet the requirements of the London Plan policy 7.14. The proposed development has a robust travel plan, it promotes a sustainable design and will be air quality neutral. He also asked the Committee to note that Merton policy CS11 part c underpins the assertion of the need for  the School.


The Committee received a verbal representation from Councillor Ed Gretton, who made points including:


·         The Officer’s report says that there increased demand for school places, but it does not reference that this demand will drop over the next 4 to 5 years

·         The possibility of an alternative site has not been considered. The ex Virgin Active site would be a viable alternative and is large enough

·         Relevant Air Quality data does not appear in the Officers report


The Committee received a representation from Ward Councillor Nigel Benbow, who made points including:

·         Not against a new school, but concerns about this site; it is small and unsuited to its proposed size, TfL are concerned about the narrow pavements in the area, there is significant traffic congestion, it is very close to the major High Path regeneration site.

·         The development did not achieve a green from the Design Review Panel

·         It will have a serious impact on Merton Abbey Primary School next door. The Mayor of London has just published a report naming Merton Abbey as one of the worst polluted schools in London

·         Disappointed in Council’s planning process

·         Why weren’t the air pollution reports in the agenda?


The Committee received a verbal representation from Ward Councillor Eleanor Stringer, who made points including:


·         Must not ignore the need for a new school in this area - this application addresses the need to supply additional school places

·         Need to take into account the concerns of local residents about the impact on Merton Abbey School, traffic and community use of the school

·         There will be an improvement of Morden Road crossing

·         Glad to see the report on air quality

·         There are potential benefits to the South Wimbledon local centre from this development


Members’ Questions and Comments were made under the headings of the Planning Considerations.


1.  Proposed Development:


In answer to Members Questions the Planning Team Leader replied:


·         Merton Policy CS11 supports proposal for an increase in the number of school places in the borough

·         This scheme, at this site, has the funding support of the Department of Education. If another site was used instead it would have different funding arrangements.

·         Members suggested that there will be fewer children requiring secondary school places in the borough in the future. But it has to be noted that this scheme is next to The High Path Estate which is be regenerated creating up to 1057 residential units. Also it must be taken into account that in the draft London Plan the council’s housing targets have increased. This could result in 13000 new homes in the borough within 10 years


2.  Impact on Character of the Area:


In answer to Members’ Questions the Planning Team Leader replied:


·         The Design Review Panel (DRP) saw the proposal twice and twice gave it an amber; they did have some  concerns regarding the elevations and architecture. Many of the DRP comments applied to the internal layout of the building, and these contributed to the amber rating. However the site is constrained, Officers do not need a green from DRP to support a scheme, and Planning Officers must follow the NPPF

·         The roof will not be used as a play area. The roof will house solar panels and plant equipment.


3.  Trees:


Officers confirmed that the proposal will result in a loss of trees on the site. However the site is not big and the footprint occupies a significant proportion of the site. There is infill planting proposed in the more sensitive parts of the site, the boundary screening is to be maintained


A member commented that a significant number of new trees were needed on this site. Trees reduce air pollution and there should be proper consideration of which trees are best at reducing pollution.


4.  Impact on neighbouring amenity:


In answer to Members’ Questions the Planning Team Leader replied:


·         Nursery Road Playing field is a separate parcel of land, and the Green Flag status of the Abbey Recreation Ground would not be affected by this scheme

·         There is written confirmation of the arrangements for the School to use Nursery Road Playing Fields. The Council has the lease until 2059, the school has use between 9am – 6pm for one football pitch for 26 weeks and one cricket pitch for 13 weeks per year

·         There has been a noise impact assessment, and this shows that the average noise levels within the school would not breach the relevant British Standards.


5.  Transport and Highways Issues:


The Transport Planning Officer made comments in answer to members’ questions:


·         Site is very accessible for bus tube and tram and will encourage children to travel by public transport

·         Secondary School children are more independent than primary school children are more able to travel independently to school.

·         The Whately Avenue site is much less accessible by public transport and yet still has only 10% of children travelling to school by car

·         Teachers will not be eligible for permits, the scheme will be car free, except for one disabled parking space on site.

·         Trip figures are derived from the figures of similar schools in the borough. We do not have problems around any secondary school in the borough


A member commented that the proposal by TfL to increase the 93 bus by only one may not be adequate.


6.  Air Quality:


The Council’s Pollution Manager answered members’ questions, and made points including:


·         Air Quality is a challenge across LBM, as it is in other London Boroughs. We have an Air Quality Action Plan, and automated  monitoring is carried out via a diffusion tube network. There are upper limits for each type of pollutant. The diffusion tubes measure pollution on the kerbside and from this data the levels of pollutant can be calculated at distances away from the kerb, and within a site. The estimates for this application site show that levels of pollutants within the site are likely to be within the allowed limits. Similar monitoring for Merton Abbey primary School also shows that within the school site  air quality is acceptable.

·         It was noted that the Mayor of London has said that Merton Abbey School is in a pollution hotspot. We do monitor around schools, but exposure to air pollution is usually around travel to School. The School itself does not generate air pollution, and levels of pollutants drop within a site away from the kerbside.

·         Officers are optimistic that the diesel levy will help to reduce levels of air pollution, this will be helped by the move away from diesel vehicles

·         The DEFRA guidelines say that using an annualised figure for pollution levels is acceptable

·         The people on the site  could only contribute to air pollution if pupils were being driven to school by car. Air pollution is produced by transport and fuel use

·         There is conflicting evidence on whether a 20 MPH zone would make a difference to air quality, but anything that promotes active travel will help to reduce air pollution.

·         The construction phase will be closely regulated by the Council

·         Help is given to community groups who wish to monitor air quality, but it is the measurements taken in compliance with the guidance, by the Council that are used for assessment purposes

·         If levels of air pollution do not reduce then the Council will need to consider taking action and extending monitoring.



Members made final comments including:

·         Wider Community use should be secured by condition

·         There should be more mitigation for the loss of trees. Preferably there should be additional trees on site of a type that is best at reducing air pollution.




The Committee voted to GRANT Planning Permission subject to completion of an S106 agreement and conditions.


The Committee asked Officers to pursue two further matters with the applicant:

1.    Mitigation for the loss of trees

2.    Assurance that the Community use is as accessible as possible

Supporting documents: