A few problems with the Dundonald “Save Our Rec” campaign

Background info

Merton Council plans to expand Dundonald Primary School, to make more school places. This expansion will be achieved by demolishing the existing pavilion and replacing it with a 2-story structure (on roughly the same size footprint) comprising a new pavilion plus classrooms. The Council’s summary of the plan is here (pdf).

What is ‘Save Our Rec’?

A group of local residents are campaigning against the school expansion, under the banners “Save Our Rec” and “Protect Dundonald Rec”. Their website is here.

Who am I?

A local resident with children at the school. No party political membership or affiliation. Not a Council employee. I’ve started this blog to draw attention to some of the problems with the “Save Our Rec” campaign, which I think has got a little out of hand.

What are the problems with the ‘Save Our Rec’ campaign?

  • It’s dishonest.

The “Save Our Rec” campaigners have consistently exaggerated the scope of the council’s plans. For example,

  • their poster shows the Rose Garden being bricked up – but there are no plans to build on the Rose Garden! In fact, the Council’s plan will only affect 0.6% – that’s six one-thousandths – of the Rec.
  • “Save Our Rec” claims that the Council plans to build blocks of flats on the Rec – but there’s no such plan! While harvesting signatures for their petition, “Save Our Rec” campaigners claimed that the Council has a secret plan to build flats on the entire Rec. This is simply scare-mongering – there’s no such plan.
  • they claim that if the Restrictive Covenant is broken then there will be nothing to prevent further building on the Rec. Now that’s simply untrue. The Restrictive Covenant will continue to apply to 99.4% of the Rec – and anyway, these days, like all the rest of the UK, we have the planning permission process to protect open space!
  • They claim that the Restrictive Covenant cannot legally (or morally) be varied, because it protects the Rec “FOREVER!”  Again, this is simply untrue. Legally, the Lands Tribunal can vary the restrictive covenant. Morally: if we were to take all our policies from the Victorians, then children would clean chimneys, and women would neither vote nor own property. Change happens; our property planning laws can deal with that.
  • It’s vindictive.

  • “Save Our Rec” supporters are so keen on the cause that they’ve been willing to threaten the families of local residents who dared to show posters in favour of the school expansion. That’s simply not how these issues should be worked out in our society.
  • The “Save Our Rec” committee have now, using malicious complaints, hounded Counciller Peter Walker, head of Education, out of his job. He took down a poster promoting “Save Our Rec”. While that wasn’t the right thing to do, it shouldn’t have cost him his job.
  • It’s a self-interested clique – it doesn’t represent local residents.

  • The “Save Our Rec” committee own millions of pounds of property in the Dundonald area. If they can succeed in keeping admission to the school limited to the area 200m around the school, they can artificially inflate their own property values.
  • “Save Our Rec” has no mandate from local residents – their committee aren’t elected – the signatures on their petition were obtained through hysteria and scaremongering. The Council is actually elected by local residents – if Lorraine Marries (head of “Save Our Rec”) wants to boost her ego by claiming to represent local residents, she should run for political office.
  • It’s not “Their” Rec – it belongs to the whole community.
  • It uses children as political props, while ignoring their real needs.

  • We’ve seen a bunch of photo-ops with kids supporting the cause. Do small children really understand the trade-off that needs to be made between the availability of school places and the need for green space?
  • Kids need education. The “Save Our Rec” committee have all recieved their educations already; now they want to deny education to the next generation in order to boost their own property values.
  • It’s simply unaceptable for “Save Our Rec” to outright deny that there’s a lack of school places, or to argue that it’s not their problem, or to say that other schools should simply expand (almost all of them have, except for the church schools), or that new schools should be built elsewhere (“Not In My Backyard”). In our society, we all have a responsibility towards the community’s children.

For September 2012, there is a family living 225m from Dundonald school who will be forced to travel 3 miles to Mitcham for their 4-year-old’s education. This is a direct result of the “Save Our Rec” campaign.

Can we truly not spare 0.6% of the Rec, to ensure that local children get a good, local, education?

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