Colliers Wood and North-East Mitcham Community Forum
1 December 2009
The meeting was held at Liberty School, and chaired by Councillor Sheila Knight .
4 residents attended, as well as Councillors Edith Macauley, Mark Allison, Debbie
Shears and Maurice Groves, and officers from the council and its partners.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Linda Kirby and John Dehaney,
and Richard Tracey AM.
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.
GP Practices in Colliers Wood and Lavender Fields
Malcolm Grazier, Senior Commissioning Manager, Non Acute Services, NHS Sutton &
Merton, introduced this discussion on the decision to relocate the two surgeries of the
Colliers Wood General Practice, to a single site. He told the meeting that the NHS do
not own GPs’ premises; GPs have to offer premises that are fit for purpose, and are
then reimbursed by the NHS. In this case the premises are not owned by the practice,
but by retired doctors. The practice is unable to make changes to the premises without
the owners’ consent, and both premises have been identified by NHS Sutton & Merton
as unsatisfactory, the 48th and 50th of all 50 premises in Sutton and Merton. Their
patient list has grown from 7,000 to more than 12,000 in a few years.
NHS Sutton and Merton accepted a business case form the practice for a move from
their Lavender and Colliers Wood surgeries to a single premises at Cavendish House,
Colliers Wood, currently empty apart from the part of the building occupied by the
Colliers Wood Library. Finance and support for the move were agreed by the NHS on
The NHS no longer considers small local practices to be the way forward. They want to
see larger premises able to provide a number of services previously carried out in
hospitals. Where there were difficulties for patients to reach the new premises from
Lavender ward and elsewhere, the NHS was in discussion with Merton Council’s Adult
Social Care division about a joint approach to Transport for London to try to find a
Dr Farooq Ahmed, from the Colliers Wood practice, said that the practice did not stand
to gain financially from the move. They had identified the need to leave their present
premises shortly after 2000: the premises were not fit for the twenty first century, the
practice served some of the most deprived patients, and it was important to take steps
to reduce health inequalities, to provide good chronic disease management, and meet
the very specific needs of large numbers of minority ethnic patients (60% of the
practice’s list). The current premises were in breach of Health and Safety requirements,
with a lack of disabled access.
Patients came from a four mile diameter. The central location was about half a mile in
diameter, and Cavendish House is within that location, with excellent public transport
links. The practice has an experienced specialist developer interested in buying the
property and leasing it to them.
Dr Saqib Ayub, the other practitioner, added that patients already travel to both sites.
The residence of all patients over 65 had been plotted, and most of them were nearer to
Colliers Wood than Lavender. Colliers Wood ward also has the highest population
growth projection of all of the wards from which the practice draws its patients.
Housebound and vulnerable patients will be unaffected by the move, as they already
receive GP visits and domiciliary services. Some patients may choose to switch to
closer surgeries, such as those at Graham Road, Figges Marsh and the Mitcham
Medical Centre. No other options that they had pursued had come to fruition. The ‘do
nothing’ option was very high risk: the requirements of the Care Quality Commission
could demand the closure of the current premises now.
Malcolm Grazier said that he had sensed a feeling that people thought that the NHS
had not been transparent in considering reports in private. These were surveyors
reports on the condition of premises which were not owned by the NHS, and were
necessarily private. The proposal is to create 1050 square metres of usable space, as
against 350 in the two current premises combined.
Neil Malcolm, Chair of the Lavender Residents Association, said that the NHS had
taken their decision without any public consultation. The business case was riddled with
errors. The Lavender surgery was at least 300 square metres on its own. It is a sound
building, perfectly capable of improvement to provide services in conjunction with the
Colliers Wood surgery. The consultation promised following the NHS decision will be
conducted by doctors and not independent. The public have not been allowed to see
the report to the NHS Sutton and Merton Board, and was a most unaccountable body,
even though Neil had been allowed to speak at the Board meeting by the Chair. All of
the patients from Lavender Fields, Graveney and Figges Marsh that he knows are
appalled by the proposed closure of the Lavender surgery. They would be happy to
receive extra services from Colliers Wood, but not at the expense of closing their local
surgery. No adequate answer had been given to the question of whether the Figges
Marsh practice would be able to handle the extra demand created by the closure.
Councillor Edith Macauley said that there was a lot of discontent among Lavender
residents. She had received a lot of e-mails and phone calls from people saying that
they had not been informed or consulted, and were surprised by the decision. Health
inequalities were important, but elderly and minority ethnic people were angry.
Constituents were blaming councillors for not letting them know what was happening,
when they had not been informed either. One constituent had said that ‘everything
comes to Lavender last’. Such people’s concerns should not be ignored.
Councillor Mark Allison said that he was concerned about how existing Lavender
patients would get to the new surgery, although he completely sympathised with the
GPs, and understood why they needed better premises. He was pleased that the
Figges Marsh surgery had arrived, and looked forward to the new one in Lavender
Avenue. But meanwhile there were concerns over the transitional period if the current
surgery closes before the Lavender Avenue one is ready. He had written to the Chief
Executive of NHS Sutton and Merton for reassurance over the transitional
The Chair said that the move should strengthen the case with Transport for London for
public transport provision in Lavender. Merton Community Transport was also looking to
see whether they could provide a service specifically to patients of the practice for
travelling to and from the Colliers Wood surgery.
Dr Ayub said that confidentiality could not be guaranteed at the Lavender surgery,
although Neil Malcolm said that this problem could be solved.
Councillor Maurice Groves said that he had seen the mass of analysis on which the
business case had been based, and the evidence for the move was overwhelming. The
overriding priority was to improve levels of health in the east of the borough to those
enjoyed in Wimbledon.
Finding a place in a primary school
Tom Procter, LBM Service Manager - Contracts & School Organisation, said that there
had been 1800 primary school admissions in Merton three years ago, and that there
were 2240 this year. The position will be worse until 2012/13. Extra entry forms had
been created at Benedict and St Thomas of Canterbury schools. Three form entry was
acceptable provided that it was managed well to ensure that children had a secure and
happy introduction to school, and could be used in other schools.
The financial climate was very difficult, both for revenue and capital. The increase in
demand for places was unprecedented since 1945.
In discussion it was said that twelve years ago people had been campaigning against
school closures. On the other had, no one had predicted this increase in demand at that
time, and only a limited number of vacancies are allowed before the Government insists
on schools closing.
Inspector Jon Phillips included in his update:
The Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) had been out on late turns during the
two weeks around Halloween. The exercise had been quite a success.
A dispersal zone had been created with Merton Council at Singleton Close,
initially from 23 October to 23 January. It has had some success and will be
reviewed early in January.
There has been some engagement work with children at Bond Primary School,
including introducing police dogs to them, and the involvement of PC Elaine
Enforcement work had taken place at Lowry Crescent; a warrant had been
issued and a dangerous dog seized. Arrests had been made in Victoria Road. A
plain clothes arrest had been made after a stop and search; the person arrested
had been bailed charged with drug offences.
The Mitcham dispersal zone is continuing.
A seasonal spike in burglaries has started; SNTs are emphasising crime
It is hoped that the Wilson Avenue SNT base will be ready by summer 2010.
Councillor Edith Macauley drew Insp. Phillips attention to incidents involving 16/17 year
olds drinking and making a lot of noise around Brangwyn Crescent and Sheldrick Close.
There was also a problem of cold calling by men purporting to be double glazing
salesmen, in Hawthorne Avenue. Inspector Phillips noted both of these reports, and
suggested that it was best to contact the police while the cold callers were still in the
area, either by calling the non-urgent line: 0300 123 1212, or 999. He said that
Neighbourhood Watch distribute signs to residents who do not want to be troubled by
Enforcing traffic signs
Chris Chowns, LBM Principal Transport Planner, and Jon Phillips explained that the
responsibility for enforcing traffic signs has been handed back to the police in a number
of boroughs, including Merton. However, this was not a priority for police work unless it
had been agreed with a Ward Panel that it should be.
Neil Malcolm said that there was a ‘No Right Turn’ sign at the London Road/Lavender
Avenue junction which was currently unenforceable. It should either be properly
displayed or removed. This issue had been raised at a previous community forum
meeting but no response had been received. Chris Chowns undertook to report this to
the Traffic Manager.
Neil also mentioned a problem of traffic in the pedestrianised part of Mitcham town
centre (also raised previously).
The Chair appealed for more ‘No Cycling’ signs on pavements.
Councillor Mark Allison referred to traffic arrangements at Liberty Avenue/Christchurch
Road and Prince George’s Road/Christchurch Road. It was not clear what traffic was
meant to be doing, or whether it was logical. Neil added that it was to have been
reconsidered after the rephrasing of the traffic lights, which has now taken place.
Action: Traffic Management to report to the next forum meeting.
Neil also mentioned the lack of a cycle route along Church Road to Colliers Wood tube.
The Chair asked for TfL to be reminded about the longstanding request for a footpath
on Merantun Way. Chris Chowns said that a cycle route was also wanted, and that the
creation of the Cycle Super Highway would involve making feeders into it, and this
might be an opportunity for Merantun Way. There would be consultation on this in 2010.
Neil Malcolm was disappointed that the substantial sums of money that had been made
available by the government to improve play facilities, did not extend to toilets and
drinking fountains. Clearly these could not be installed across the borough immediately,
but it was important to make a start and have an incremental programme.
Keith Allen complained about the increase in the visitors’ parking charge in Controlled
Parking Zones, from £1.50 to £2.50. Charges in Wimbledon car parks were being
reduced to help the shops there, but nothing was being done for residents. Councillor
David Williams had said that the charges subsidised the Freedom Pass.
[On this last point, Councillor Mark Allison had written to the Chair about the reporting of
the previous meeting, where he had responded to Councillor David Williams’ comments
on charges in CPZs. His response had not been fully reported, and the report made little
sense as it stood. The following quotation from Councillor Allison’s response is intended
to corredt the record:
‘…If paying for the Freedom Pass really was a factor in the increase to CPZ charges,
they were probably not legal because Councils are not permitted to increase parking
charges with the intention of raising revenue. I added that Councils are allowed to
increase charges for traffic management reasons, such as to ration parking or reduce
demand, and that any profits could be spent on a small number of items (including the
Freedom Pass) – but Councils cannot deliberately set out to make profits.
I concluded by saying that Merton Council’s Cabinet Member had claimed that the
parking charge had been increased in order to ration spaces, but that this was not
believable as abolishing the half day rate would not reduce the number of cars parked
all day. Also, Merton had produced no evidence to show a need to ration spaces in
Colliers Wood. Therefore it was hard to see how rationing could have been the motive,
which put the legality of the increases in some question.’]
Family houses converted into flats and rooms
The meeting expressed great disappointment that a Merton council officer was not at
the meeting to discuss this item. It was agreed to include it on the agenda for the next
meeting, and ask for a member of the planning team to attend.
A resident from Graveney ward said that her contacts with planning officers made her
feel that she was being palmed off. There seemed to be no consistency in the planning
applications (for conversions) that were rejected and those that were approved. She
understood that the power to reject applications was tightly constrained by law and the
the council’s own planning framework, but still felt that more could be done to regulate
the inappropriate conversion of small family houses into two or more units.
Concerns were also raised about the position in Lavender, where outhouses were being
used as dwellings, sometimes despite previous enforcement action, and about a large
number of very small houses in Finborough Road being brought into multiple
Next meeting: 7.15 pm, Thursday 18 February 2010