Following a four year battle, the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State has, on the 30th April, concluded the following regarding the appeal by Quantum Group Teddington to overturn the planning decision by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (LBRUT) regarding the Imperial College Private Ground, Udney Park Road in Teddington. 

“The appeal is dismissed and planning permission for the erection of a new extra care community, with new public open space and improved sports facilities, comprising: 107 extra-care apartments (Class C2 use), visitor suites, and associated car parking; 12 GP surgery (Class D1 use) and associated car parking; new public open space including a public park, and a community orchard; improved sports facilities (Class D2 use) comprising a 3G pitch, turf pitch, MUGA, playground, pavilion, and community space, and associated parking (68 spaces); paddock for horses; and a new pedestrian crossing at Cromwell Road; and all other associated works is refused.”

The Teddington Society and The Udney Park Playing Fields Trust opposed the proposal along with LBRUT whilst the Teddington Community Sports Ground (CIC) supported the proposal. Imperial College controversially sold the land for £6m to Quantum Group (AHH Ltd) without planning permission in 2015 despite many bids from local organisations including the Harlequins Rugby Club, who had partnered with other interested parties, many of whom had been using Udney Park as their grounds for many years. 

The decision now opens up the possibility of local organisations stepping in to fill the void or LBRUT taking over control as they have done with many other playing fields and community facilities. Despite the enticement of new community facilities such as a Doctors Surgery, the inspector believed that the original usage of the playing rules should not change. Maybe developers and their planning consultants will have to think twice about building on green space in the suburbs of London? 

In his tenure as Mayor the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson had said:

“The London Plan policy is absolutely clear that you cannot have a loss of open space unless you have equivalent or better provision. I note that Udney Park was donated in 1937 specifically for use as rugby union pitches. It would be an absolute scandal and an outrage if that land was lost for that purpose” 

The Udney Park Playing Fields Trust is pleased with the decision stated:

“There is much interest in a charitable “Plan B” that preserves all of Udney Park for ecology and community use. We will be urging the current owners to exit Udney Park gracefully and sell to the community.”

 A local resident commented:

“Plan B opens up all of the playing fields to our community without a large concrete development and the associated problems of traffic, parking, and pollution.”   

Another chapter closes in the saga of Udney Park but its future is still not absolutely clear. The decision re-enforces the belief that green spaces should remain as green spaces in the LBRUT. All eyes are now on Quantum, and their advisors which include the planner’s Barton Willmore, to see how they will exit from their ownership of this prime piece of real estate, located in one of London’s wealthiest suburbs. 

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