“Monstrous” and “unnecessary” plans to part demolish and extend a community centre were thrown out last night.
The refusal came after a request by councillors for images showing the proposed controversial changes. A triangular section added to the side of the building was described by Hillside councillor Daniel Holden as ‘a monstrosity’ and ‘unnecessary’.
The Abbey Ward building is set to be taken over by Elim Pentecostal Church, which currently occupies a warehouse unit in High Path.
Abbey ward councillor Andrew Judge, excluded himself from the vote on a conflict of interests ground, but did not make representations against the plans.
The ward's other two Labour councillors did not attend the meeting although residents of Boscombe Road, whose houses back onto the rear of Merton Hall, were out in force.
Proposed changes included an extension to create a new worship hall, café, foyer and meeting rooms.
Following feedback from a designs panel in September, plans for the building’s front had been amended to reduce the amount of glass used, but several original features, including a bay window, would still have been part-demolished.
The Wimbledon Society, the Victorian Society and the John Innes Society also registered objections over the proposed design, and the potential loss of sunlight to adjoining buildings and gardens because of the extension.
Planning officers argued that although the building was locally listed, it is not protected on a national list by Historic England or situated in a conservation area that would protect the building from demolition.
Planning officers said the majority of changes would be taking place at the back of the building. Proposed work included paving over a garden to allow for the worship hall extension.
Following a request from Raynes Park councillor Stephen Crowe to demonstrate that changes here would not be of interest to the public, planning officers were unable to provide a current image of the rear.
The design was ultimately refused as the proposed design was not in line with the original character of the Edwardian building, built in 1899, or of the Merton Manor club next door.
Residents speaking as objectors at the meeting also addressed issues of noise pollution from the building, which would have been open from 7am until 10pm every day.
There were also concerns a children’s nursery in the building would affect noise levels in the area significantly, and that additional windows and the extension to the rear would affect residents’ privacy.
Dundonald ward member Councillor Michael Bull made representations against the plans.
He said: “I am very pleased that the planning committee decided to refuse this application. The proposals represented a loss of privacy, car parking space, green space and community space for local residents.
“It is disappointing that none of the Abbey Ward Labour councillors attended the meeting to make representations against the application on behalf of their residents.”