Schoolchildren in Merton are a step closer to benefitting from new playing fields after the council’s cabinet agreed to support a strategy to bring a disused sports ground back into play.
Merton Council is to redirect money it receives from leasing the lesser-used Oberon playing fields in Lindisfarne Road/Cottenham Park Road, Wimbledon to part fund the refurbishment of the derelict former Royal Sun Alliance playing field in Westway Close, Raynes Park.
The council is looking to support Raynes Park High School plans to bring the derelict Royal Sun Alliance playing field up to scratch and enable students from the school and other local schools including West Wimbledon and Sacred Heart, to make full use of the area. Over the years the land – which is not a Merton playing field – has been left to fall into disrepair. It was passed to the council 18 months ago but is not currently fit to be a school playing field.
Once the new sports ground is up and running Merton will look to lease out part of the Oberon playing field for educational and community use. At the moment, the area is too far away for Raynes Park High School pupils to use and youngsters from St Matthew’s Primary School only use a small plot of the land. The council will therefore divide the field to allow St Matthews’ to continue using the ground and rent out the remaining area to a separate organisation, specifying its use for educational and community purposes.
Plans cover leasing the field for 20 years but Merton will make sure it retains overall ownership of the land.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Debbie Shears said: “It is vitally important for our young people to have plenty of open spaces where they can play games and practise their sports.
“We are committed to putting the needs of our residents first as well as offering them value for money services and by bringing the former Royal Sun Alliance sports ground back into use and leasing out part of the Oberon playing field we will effectively be securing two fields for the price of one.”
Raynes Park head teacher Ian Newman said: “This is exciting news for Raynes Park High. When we can eventually use the former Royal Sun Alliance playing field, it will mean that our pupils will have an open space where they can play games that is a two-minute walk from the school site. Physical activity out in the open air is so important to youngsters maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Bringing the sports ground back into play will be of huge benefit to the life of our school and to the local community. We are grateful to everyone who has helped us raise money, but we still need more to ensure the project’s success. You can visit our website for up-to-date information on our campaign Help our pavilion be one in a million.”
The cabinet report can be found at http://www.merton.gov.uk/democratic_services/ds-agendas/ds-fpreports/879.pdf
Information about Raynes Park High School’s campaign Help our pavilion be one in a million is at http://www.raynespark.merton.sch.uk/index.phtml?d=27574
Notes for editors
1. The majority of the former Royal Sun Alliance playing field passed to Merton Council on 14 May 2008 as part of a Section 106 agreement on a planning application for housing on a small section of the site.
2. Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission. It is often used to support the provision of services and infrastructure, such as highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.
3. The refurbishment of the former Royal Sun Alliance playing field is a multi-funded project. The council is aiming to raise funds from leasing the Oberon playing fields to allow work on the Royal Sun Alliance field to start. Raynes Park High School has been actively fundraising for several years to progress this project and currently has raised close to £750,000. Due to the nature of bringing a playing field back into use to a high standard, the council expects it will be at least two years before it can be used to its full potential. In the meantime, the Oberon playing fields will continue to be used as normal.