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Metropolitan Open Land is not for building

Building without planning permission has started in a park, classified as Metropolitan Open Land, setting an extremely dangerous precedent.

Friends of Belair Park are extremely concerned as they witnessed the developer setting the foundations for a commercial nursery on a Dulwich sports field before being granted a planning permission to do so.


John Gleeson, local resident, is asking local residents to help and object to the development of a commercial nursery on Metropolitan Open Land (which, by its designation, has much higher levels of protection against inappropriate development). This development, he states, is inappropriate, and if it gets the go-ahead, will set a very dangerous precedent for the future of other green spaces in Dulwich, Lambeth and Southwark. Alarmingly, foundations have already been laid without planning permission and the consultation process has not been followed.

If Metropolitan Open Land is not protected, what guarantee can there be that any, and that is absolutely any (parks, street corners, spaces which council chooses to call 'vacant land') spaces will not be built on by whomever and whenever and without bothering too much with the planning processes?

Southwark Community Sports Trust which operates the Dulwich Sports Centre (formerly the South Bank University playing fields) on Turney Road, in conjunction with a private operator (Nelly’s Nursery), is planning to construct a commercial building on previously open green space and the Dulwich Estate supports this development. Approval opens the way for further commercial units to be constructed on our open spaces on grounds of economic necessity. Such a move will change the nature of Dulwich forever.

The equally worrying fact is that people do not go around randomly building whatever and wherever they please, but spend time talking to relevant public authorities and/or land owners, in order to fine-tune the planning application. The fact that the foundations to this particular development are already in place is setting another dangerous precedent where planning decisions are made in advance, behind closed doors, rather than through a formal public process.

Deadline for comments on the planning application 13/AP/1732 is 27th July 2013. However, the planning application is due to be discussed at the planning committee meeting on 23rd July, four days before the end of the consultation.

We urge you to object to this development, because:

  • Commercial developments on Metropolitan Open Land are inappropriate;
  • Change of use from recreational to commercial purposes is inappropriate;
  • Site of proposed building is in an area prone to severe and regular flooding from the underground Effra river;
  • The development would create additional traffic on Turney Road and Burbage Road, impacting traffic flows throughout the village area.

To object to the planning application, please write to Gary Rice, Head of Development Management, Southwark Council Planning Division, Development Management (5th floor - hub 2), PO Box 64529, London SE1P 5LX or send your email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., clearly marking it as 'Objection to planning application 13/AP/1732', including your full name and contact details/postal address.

Email the local councillors and MP to let them know you are objecting too:

Tessa Jowell MP, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cllr Toby Eckersley, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cllr Michael Mitchell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cllr Robin Crookshank Hilton, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information about the planning application as well as information about a forthcoming Great North Wood walk, please download the Friends of Belair Park latest newsletter below.

Updated 22nd July 2013:

We have just sent in our objection and encourage you to do the same if you can:

We object to this proposal in strongest possible terms, for a number of reasons:

Contempt of planning procedures:

The developer has, by starting work on the building before the planning consent had been granted, shown utter contempt for existing planning procedures in Southwark. It is difficult to see how the work of this nature could have happened without your or your team's knowledge, which, in turn, raises another, as serious a concern, namely, the purpose of existing planning procedures.

If a developer can submit a planning application then proceed to carry out the work before democratically elected representatives have had the opportunity to consider the merits of the planning application and reach a decision, what is the point of having a planning committee?

If a developer can submit a planning application then just carry on regardless, what is the point of pretending to engage with local residents and communities about the proposal?

On a related note, we are concerned that the statutory deadline for comments on the proposal is three days after the application is to be discussed at/decided on at the planning committee meeting. We sincerely hope this is an error and that the planning application will not be discussed before the end of the consultation date, as this would completely destroy what little trust and regard local residents have for the council's compliance with their own processes and policies.

Metropolitan Open Land (MOL):

MOL has a high level of protection, not just by local authority, but by the Mayor of London. London Plan clearly stipulates that any changes to the boundary would need to be undertaken through DPDs (Development Plan Document), which does not seem to have been the case in this instance.

Granting permission to the proposal for a commercial children's nursery would set an extremely dangerous precedent, as, if MOL is not protected, how long before a supermarket chain decides to build yet another 24hour store on MOL or any park or patch of green for that matter, how long before a trans-national developer decides to build a 100% private housing development anywhere they please? With or without a planning permission?

Other reasons:

In addition, the development is likely to create more traffic and, as a consequence, more air pollution which has to be discouraged wherever possible, considering the already disastrously high levels of pollution in Southwark.

The site for the development is prone to regular severe flooding by the underground river Effra, which makes it even less appropriate.

We strongly urge you to reject this planning application and ensure that, in future, the process is duly followed and our green and open spaces get the protection both they and we deserve.




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