Campaigners Stage Meeting Against Wimbledon Park Tennis Plans

Golf club's championship-winning academy is also set to close

Trees at Wimbledon Park
Mature trees in Wimbledon Park

Campaigners opposing the huge expansion of Wimbledon's world-famous tennis club are staging an on-line meeting next month.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) wants to expand into Wimbledon Park Golf Club under plans that would span 67 hectares between Wimbledon and Wandsworth.

The club said the scheme, which include an 8,000-seat show court, would bring "substantial public benefit" to the area.

But 16 local organisations, as well as the Conservative MP for Wimbledon, Stephen Hammond, and Labour MP for Putney Fleur Anderson, have already expressed opposition to the plans.

Now the CPRE London and the 'Save Wimbledon Park' campaign are holding a meeting to discuss the significance of the park and the issues at stake.

The meeting takes place between 1pm-2pm on Wednesday November 2, and it will be chaired by Alice Roberts, Head of Campaigning at CPRE London.

Organisers say: "Join us online to hear about the significance of the park and the issues at stake: its environment and rich biodiversity, its heritage and openness, and the importance of public access for wellbeing and recreation.

"There will be a discussion about the protections put in place to preserve all of this, and why these issues are so critical and topical."

The championship-winning golf academy at Wimbledon Park Golf Club is also facing closure from January, as the AELTC is not offering it enough land to continue.

The academy currently has 170 junior participants, and the club's juniors are the current Kingston and Surrey champions.

But the academy says: "The AELTC has refused to provide access to a small amount of land to enable the Junior Golf Academy to continue operating. As a result, it has been left with nowhere for its members to learn and play golf in Wimbledon and Merton from January next year.

"The AELTC should be particularly aware of the challenges that continue to face grass roots sport in the UK and, given its profile, should be a champion for all sport within its own community.

"This is especially so for an activity like golf which, like tennis, traditionally has high barriers to entry for most children, particularly those in cities or from lower income backgrounds. We hope they can be persuaded to reconsider and help promote and maintain the diverse access the academy provides."

If you are interested in finding out more at the online meeting, or have advance questions or comments, the link to find out more is on the 'Save Wimbledon Park' website. The campaign has seen 12 local residents' associations, four local heritage and environmental organisations and three national bodies join forces to fight the plans.

They state: "In Capability Brown's Grade II* historic and highly protected Metropolitan Open Land they plan an 8,000-seat stadium, 38 courts, 10 other buildings and 9kms of roads and paths.

"They propose a new AELTC private park to which the public may be admitted but which would contain a 30,000sqft maintenance building.

They claim the plans would break the 1993 covenants demanded by Merton Council to protect the golf course land and agreed by AELTC on their purchase.

The campaign group adds: "There would be unacceptable environmental impact. The golf course will be excavated, infilled, and levelled over seven years, threatening protected priority habitats. Claims for biodiversity net gains have been challenged in expert analysis. Three hundred mature trees will be felled.

"An estimated 500+ younger trees will be uprooted. Established trees are vastly superior to new saplings for carbon storage, heritage and biodiversity. You cannot replace a 150-year-old tree without waiting 150 years."

The petition set up by the campaign group is calling on Merton and Wandsworth councils to reject the upcoming planning application on the basis that the scale of the development is "unjustified". It has received nearly 5,000 signatures.

The AELTC has previously said that the Wimbledon Park Project proposals were designed with two core objectives in mind: To maintain The Championships at the pinnacle of tennis and to provide substantial public benefit to the local community.

“Central to our proposals is the creation of a new 9.4-hectare park that will open to the public previously private land, as well as a new boardwalk around Wimbledon Park lake. We believe these benefits, alongside others such as an increase in biodiversity of the site and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come,” they have stated.

AELTC plans for Wimbledon ParkBird's eye view of how the Wimbledon Tennis Club could look. Picture: AELTC

October 24, 2022