D-Day Looms for the AELTC's Wimbledon Park Plan

Merton Council says it will discuss controversial scheme soon

Campaigners against the scheme including Fleur Anderson (second right) outside the All England Lawn Tennis Club

October 13, 2023

Plans by by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) to build 38 tennis practice courts and an 8,000 seater stadium on Wimbledon Park will be heard by Merton Council later this month.

The council has revealed that the controversial planning application, which includes a 10-storey stadium, 9km of roads, 10 other buildings and a maintenance hub, will be discussed by planning committee Councillors on 26 October.

The council has received more than 2,000 submissions - mostly in opposition - from stakeholders and members of the public. Both Putney's Labour MP Fleur Anderson and Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon, have also expressed their opposition to the scheme.

In advance of the planning committee meeting, Ms Anderson today (October 12) wrote a letter to Merton's Labour Councillors stating that a preferable option would be to develop the Roehampton site instead.

"Residents across our area of South West London have major concerns about developing at this scale on protected green space of Metropolitan Open Land, and the prolonged planned closures and lack of protection for the ‘public’ part of the park," she said.

"This should be public park open for use for all. Especially for the nearby estates in West Hill who do not have gardens or green space of their own. I hope that you understand the strength of opposition, and the contradiction of declaring a climate emergency and allowing this to go ahead."

She reminded the councillors about a recent meeting in Southfields, which saw around 350 residents discuss issues including the environmental impact of the plans and legal avenues for challenging the scheme.

Labour-run Merton Council has yet to produce its papers for the meeting, which will start at 7.15pm. Ms Anderson said that when the papers were released, she would write to Councillors again.

"Public access to green space is more critical now than ever before. Generations of people have fought to ensure that London’s beautiful parks remain open to all – I feel that we owe it to future generations to play our part in this tradition, and fight for the public to have access to this precious space for decades to come," she added.

Meanwhile, Merton Lib Dem Councillor Paul Kohler has criticised plans to treat the case like any other planning application when it comes up at the planning committee, which means neither the applicant nor objectors will be allowed extra time to address the numerous issues raised by the application.

This means that only two, randomly selected, residents will be allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes each along with a maximum of three councillors limited to two minutes each. Campaign groups such as Save Wimbledon Park will not be given any preference or rights of audience and if more than seven residents apply to speak, the allocation will be made randomly, he said. Mr Hammond will be allowed to speak for up to two minutes, but Ms Anderson won't be allowed to speak at all.

CGI of the aerial view of the completed scheme. Picture: AELTC

But Councillor Kohler said that during the last major planning application involving a sports stadium in the borough - when AFC Wimbledon applied to build the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Plough Lane in December 2015 - much longer time for oral submissions was given to all the parties involved.

He said: "I am pleased the application is finally being heard although I am dismayed at how little time the Labour Chair of the Planning Committee is giving residents to raise their objections.

"I cannot understand why he is treating this application as if it were no more than a modest extension to a house. This will be the most consequential planning committee decision in Merton's history, and the AFC Wimbledon precedent should have been followed, with much more time allocated to the parties.

"The AELTC's plan to concrete over huge swathes of Metropolitan Open Land would be a travesty for Wimbledon Park and have serious consequences for the future of green spaces across London. Capability Brown's masterpiece would be turned into an industrial tennis complex, with local residents consigned to eight years of building work, the felling of hundreds of mature trees and the destruction of precious wildlife habitats including those of endangered species.

"Even if planning permission is granted, the legally binding promises the AELTC gave not to build on the land are still enforceable - and I am calling on Merton Council's Labour bosses to make clear they will indeed ensure those promises are kept."

The AELTC has said that its plan would actually increase public access to the site due to much of the area being occupied by the golf course.

It has also submitted its plans to Wandsworth Council, but it has yet to reveal when it will discuss the scheme.

If councillors on the planning committees of both Wandsworth and Merton boroughs approve the plans, then it is believed that it could take a decade for the project to be completed.

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