Bulldozers had already begun work eight days ago, following Labour Cllr Andrew Judge’s decision for the redevelopment.
The War Memorial Garden at Wimbledon Village will be spared demolition, Merton Council confirmed yesterday.
The Council backed down from controversial plans to concrete over the garden surrounding the memorial which honours Wimbledon residents who fought in the World Wars.
Bulldozers had already begun work eight days ago, following Labour Cllr Andrew Judge’s decision for the redevelopment without public consultation.
The garden’s maintenance costs alongside a reduced Government grant were factors cited for the work.
However, Director of Environment and Regeneration Chris Lee wrote to Village Ward Councillors on Wednesday night confirming suspension to the works and the return of the garden to its former state ahead of Remembrance Sunday.
Merton Council Leader Stephen Alambritis said: “We consulted with the council and we consulted with the Mayor’s Office. But given the depth of concern from residents in particular, we have said that they would be very happy to mantain the grass at the war memorial.
“What we thought we’d better do is re-engage, have another look at it, return back the grass, and talk to the councillors and local residents with a view to future maintenance.”
Plans for the War Memorial Garden will be reviewed following this year’s Remembrance Services instead.
“It’s important to re-engage,” Councillor Alambritis added.
“I think we’ve showed maturity as a council that we are happy and willing to re-engage with residents and with councillors.
“We hope we have a good Remembrance Sunday. We will re-engage with councillors and residents and the discussion about the war memorial and its future maintenance.
“Obviously if it is the view that councillors and residents prefer the grass then that’s a consultation we’ll have. We’ll have a more meaningful and better consultation and it will be longer.”
Merton Conservatives had opposed the council’s decision to alter the garden without the community’s input over the listed memorial.
Village Ward Councillors John Bowcott, Richard Chellew and Samantha George wrote to the council a week ago requesting a halt to the works.
Cllr Samantha George said on the confirmed postponement: “This represents a victory for all those who wrote in to protest against this. Thank goodness that the council has finally come to its senses.
“I am delighted that the War Memorial Garden will be returned to its former glory for this year’s Annual Remembrance Service. The Garden provides a suitable setting for a place of solemn reflection – as it has done since 1919.”
Councillor Alambritis said: “I appreciate Councillor George’s opinion but I think that it’s wrong for her to accuse council officers who have the best interests at heart for the residents and for the council, that we were showing disrespect.
“Everyone was trying to doing their best. What I want to remind her is that as a council we have marked our respect to the war-dead by adding an extra war memorial plinth outside the Civic Centre in June.
“We’ll have the full compliment of armed services on November 11th, and we’ll continue with the services that fall out of November 11th that will be on the 9th November.
“I want Cllr George to acknowledge that we’ve not been disrespectful – the consultation was not as it should have been and she will be as fully involved as she wants to for the next consultation.”
He added: “The maintenance costs for the grass was I think around £5000 per year. The whole area was going to look good and respectful with gravel as well and would have saved £5000. There are some costs in relaying but we think it’s a better solution all-round.
“What I want to get right is by what the residents want and that is what we’re moving towards.
“Residents are also saying they’re happy to look after the garden’s maintenance and we will look at that offer.”
Emma Nelson, member of the War Memorial Trust’s Conservation Team, said: “We recommend that the time between now and Remembrance Sunday is used to take the views of the local community.
“We always say with war memorials that they are community memorials. We always recommend that with any set of proposals consultation is undertaken.”
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