Clash over Wimbledon tennis stadium plans

Lib Dem motion passes – but only after being watered down by Labour

Many local people have voiced their opposition to the All England Tennis Club’s significant expansion plans, which would result in an 8000 seat stadium, nearly 10km of new roads on the land, and the felling of hundreds of mature trees.

Last week, at a meeting of Merton Council, local Lib Dem councillors demanded that Council bosses state they would enforce legal promises not to build, made when the land was bought by AELTC in 1993.

Lib Dem challenge

Sadly Labour councillors sought to water down that commitment.

Lib Dem councillors voted against this Labour amendment and were supported by the Merton Park Residents Association councillors. The Conservative councillors refused to try to block Labour's attempt to water down the commitment to protect the land, instead choosing to abstain.

Even stranger, Conservative councillors called for Council legal advice to be published (which at this stage would just weaken the Council’s position) and then refused to vote to constrain the Council’s position at all.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, said:

“Last night was an opportunity to ensure the Council enforced the covenants to prevent the All England Club concreting over acres of Wimbledon Park. Sadly, that opportunity has been lost due to Labour evasiveness and Conservative inaction.

“I am surprised and hugely disappointed by the Conservative councillors’ refusal to back our proposal last night. Despite arguing in favour of the substance of our motion, they refused to join us in voting against Labour’s cynical amendment that stripped out the binding commitment requiring the Council to enforce the covenants.

“They then failed to vote on the final motion, choosing to abstain again. I am not sure why they bothered to turn up as they simply sat on their hands.”

“Conservative councillors might claim they want to save Wimbledon Park, but actions speak louder than words. The Conservative group’s preference for playing politics over making real progress has set our campaign back. Wimbledon residents deserve far better from their elected representatives.

“Despite the events of last night, the battle is far from over. We have at least succeeded in getting a commitment from the Council to 'respect' the covenants, and I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will continue to campaign to ensure these covenants are enforced and the All England Club's over-development blocked.”

The Guardian covered the story here.

You can watch the full debate on YouTube here.

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