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Dundonald Primary School expansion

We are expanding Dundonald Primary School to create extra school places which will mean that more children can be educated at this outstanding school local to where they live.

See also: Latest updates on the expansion project

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Providing enough local school places for our children

As a local education authority, we have a duty to provide every child a school place local to where they live.

Since 2008, Merton has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of school-aged children living in the borough. This is largely due to an increased birth rate in the early 2000s. To meet this demand the council started a school expansion programme. Nearly 20 schools across the borough over the last five years have been successfully expanded.

An outstanding school

Dundonald Primary School is rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted and is over-subscribed year after year. In September 2014, the furthest distance a place was offered from the school (excluding siblings) was just 106 metres. The vast majority of siblings lived within 300 metres of the school.

Expanding Dundonald Primary School

In 2010, the council put forward plans to expand Dundonald Primary School. Following a lengthy legal process, construction finally began in September 2014.

Once the school expansion is complete, 210 more children from the local area will be able to attend the school.

What changes will the recreation ground users see?

The majority of Dundonald Recreation Ground will not be affected during the works. For the public’s safety and to allow our contractors to get on and off site, we have temporarily closed the entrance on Fairlawn Road and made a temporary gate close by. This will allow people using the recreation ground continued access to the grass areas where the football and cricket pitches are located. The rose garden will remain as it is. The map of the recreation ground shows the area of the works taking place up to February 2015.

There will be a number of changes to a relatively small area of the recreation ground.

The changes are:

  1. A larger public children’s play area which will be relocated to the site of the former bowling green.
  2. A larger multi-use sports area which will increase in size by a third, providing an extra tennis court (three compared with the current two)
  3. A new outside green gym.
  4. A new two-storey building to replace the existing dilapidated pavilion which will provide additional facilities. It will include school rooms, a lift, public toilets, changing facilities and a community room which will be open to the general community as now.

Multi-use sports area (including tennis courts)

Up until now, Dundonald Primary School has used this area under an informal arrangement. To ensure both the public and the school children can benefit from the multi-use sports area (comprising three tennis courts), the council agreed with Sport England both school and general community use hours to be enshrined in a legal document, the Community Use Agreement.

Former bowling green

The council often has to make difficult decisions so it can provide the greatest number of residents with services they need and within the ever diminishing resources available to the council. One of those difficult decisions was to stop maintaining the Dundonald Rec bowling green in 2013. The council took this decision knowing that the green was used by very few people and that there is a bowling green at John Innes Park, a short walk from Dundonald Rec. The land taken up by the former bowling green will be part of the location of the larger multi-use sports area and public children’s playground.

The public children's playground

This will be relocated to the former bowling green area in mid-February 2015. We were hoping not to have to close the public playground during the works, but following detailed discussions with the contractor, the playground will need to close for 5-6 weeks from Monday 5 January before reopening in its new location in mid-February.

What will the recreation ground look like once completed?

A design plan is available which shows the recreation ground before and after the works.

What facilities will continue to be available during the building work?

  • Cricket and football pitches will continue as normal throughout the building work.
  • The existing pavilion will remain in place until the new pavilion facility is open, after which the former pavilion will be demolished and returned to green space.
  • The rose garden can continue to be enjoyed by visitors to the park during the building works. We will be changing the layout of the paths. Please look at the plans of the park on this page for more information.
  • The multi-use sports area (tennis courts) and the former bowling green will be closed during phase 1 of the construction works. They will reopen at the end of February 2015. While the work is being carried out, residents are welcome to use the council’s alternative tennis courts at John Innes Park (10 minutes walk from Dundonald Recreation Ground) and Joseph Hood (20 minutes walk from Dundonald Recreation Ground). Anyone wanting to play bowls would be very welcome to join the bowls club in John Innes Park and Recreation Ground.

Why has it taken four years to begin the expansion?

The expansion plans were put forward in 2010. In 2011, following the initial publication of the plans for public consultation, a local campaign group called Protect Dundonald Rec was formed to go against the council’s proposals. They claimed, and continue to claim, that the expansion of the school would take away a significant amount of recreational space from Dundonald Recreation Ground.

The group began legal proceedings against the council. However, all the evidence tested through the High Court, the court of Appeal, Sport England, the Greater London Authority and the Department for Local Government and Communities has shown that the council has acted appropriately. Following this, works started on site July 2014.

What is the impact of the expansion on the recreation ground and why did the council propose it?

The site of Dundonald Primary School is very limited with no open space for the children. This is why the school has shared the use of the adjacent Dundonald Recreation ground’s tennis courts for PE and lunch playtimes for many years.

The council has worked hard to ensure that the school expansion has minimal impact on the recreation ground’s open space. The plans show how a small area of the recreation ground will be reconfigured so the school will benefit from more classroom space, while the public will benefit from better playground equipment, more tennis court space and modern changing room facilities.

The council has always worked on the premise that any new building should not exceed the footprint of the buildings currently there. As shown in the plans, this has been made possible by demolishing the ageing one-storey pavilion and replacing it with a two-storey pavilion. The new pavilion will be available for both the school and the general public to use.

Before and after drawings of the development area to demonstrate this are available here.

Recreation ground facts and figures

The total area of Dundonald Recreation Ground is 45,000m². The legal change of status for 2,578 m² of the recreation ground (5.7% of the total) has changed. However, most of this 2,578 m² is the multi-use sports Area (commonly referred to as “the tennis courts”, although they have had multi-sport lines for many years). They remain part of the recreation ground. Pupils from Dundonald Primary School will only be entitled to use the area at set times. The details are as follows:

579m² (1.3% of the total 45,000m² recreation ground) is for building and outside space to become permanently part of Dundonald Primary School

Approximately 1,852 m² (together with the above this is 5.4% of the 45,000m² recreation ground) is the multi-use sports area. This will continue to be managed by the council. The school will have exclusive use of the multi-use sports area at set times as outlined in a Community Use Agreement that was approved by Sport England.

Question and answers - September 2014

A number of questions regarding the scheme were raised at meetings with parents of children from Dundonald Primary school on 18 September 2014. Parents were also able to view a presentation of key drawings.

Further questions can be emailed to schconsult@merton.gov.uk

What legal processes have been followed?

Four legal processes were required for the scheme to proceed:

  1. Planning permission
  2. Modification of a restriction covenant to allow open space to have a more general use for Dundonald Primary School
  3. Appropriation of land to allow enable the council to use some of the space for Dundonald Primary School
  4. Enlargement of the school under education law

The council has followed the processes very carefully. The first three of the above have all been tested in the High Court. They have also been allowed by other bodies independent of the council. This is detailed in the summary of events below

Planning application

  • Merton Planning Applications Committee approved the council’s scheme subject to conditions on 17 January 2013. The report and minutes of the committee can be read here. They demonstrate all relevant matters were considered in significant detail
  • The Greater London Authority and the Department for Communities and Local Government considered the decision of Merton Planning Applications Committee and chose not to use their statutory ‘call in’ powers to reverse the decision of Merton Planning Applications Committee, despite extensive lobbying from the ‘Protect Dundonald Rec’ group
  • Sport England has statutory powers to object to schemes that adversely impact on playing fields. They had extensive involvement regarding the scheme including meeting Dundonald Tennis Club (which is operated by a lead member of the Protect Dundonald Rec group) and received extensive lobbying from this group. In November 2013 Sport England confirmed that all their requirements had been met and therefore ratified their decision made immediately prior to Merton Planning Application Committee not to object to the council’s proposal. Planning permission was therefore formally agreed
  • The chair of Protect Dundonald Rec applied for a Judicial Review against the planning permission decision. This was rejected by the High Court and then the Court of Appeal on 15 July 2014. See the Judgement of Lord Justice Sullivan here.

Restrictive covenant on the land

  • In July 2013 the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) agreed that an area of the recreation ground (the 2,578 metres² outlined above) could be modified so that it “may be additionally used for education purposes (including the erection of buildings for such purposes) for use in connection with the adjoining Dundonald Primary School”. See here for the decision of the Upper Tribunal.

Appropriation of land

  • The council followed the required processes and the council’s Cabinet agreed to this following a detailed report outlining all the relevant issues on 9 December 2013. See the report here.
  • The chair of Protect Dundonald Rec applied for a Judicial Review against the planning permission decision. This was rejected by the Lord Justice King on 31 July 2014. It was then also rejected by Lord Justice Floyd at the Court of Appeal on 12 September 2014.
  • Paragraph 78 of Lord Justice King’s judgement, also referred to by Lord Justice King, succinctly stated how the council had acted properly in balancing local need:

“The council in my judgment were lawfully carrying out the exercise they were enjoined to do by the Court of Appeal in Dowty. They were balancing comparative and competing local community needs and were entitled to take a broad view of local needs. On the one hand there was what had been identified as a pressing community need for the expansion of the school and for the school’s exclusive use of sporting facilities during school hours to be clarified and formalised. That required on the proper Advice given to Cabinet by Officers, that the land be appropriated for those purposes. Against that there was the public interest need as assessed by the defendant in the local community continuing to have access to identified sporting and leisure facilities on the appropriated land. I can see nothing unlawful in the defendant carrying out that balancing exercise and determining that the comparative and competing public interest needs for sporting and associated recreational facilities could be met by the new arrangements comprised by the CUA and so forth, so that the land was no longer required for its current purpose as a recreation ground/PPG/open space governed by the hitherto applicable statutory regime, and as regards the small area being removed altogether from public access (the land appropriated for the first purpose) that was no longer required for open space purposes because of the overriding (in the defendant’s assessment) comparative need in the public interest to expand the school.”

Full judgement of Lord Justice King

Enlargement of the school under Education law

  • The relevant legal processes were followed with a detailed report to the council’s Cabinet on 9 December 2013 outlining the demand for the school expansion. See here for the detailed report

See also

This page was last updated on Thursday 25 June 2015

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