Fight goes to 5-setter
We are hugely proud that Wimbledon is the home of the world's premier tennis tournament. But whilst we take pride in the AELTC, they continue to take our community for granted, with their plans to build a 10 storey stadium, 38 tennis courts and 9km of road on Metropolitan Open Land in Wimbledon Park.
Since May's local elections we have redoubled our efforts to persuade the All England Club to scale back their proposals. Wimbledon's Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Cllr Paul Kohler and the three new Wimbledon Park Lib Dem councillors Jil Hall, Tony Reiss and Samantha MacArthur have met with a range of residents groups to help coordinate our approach, been interviewed by the Daily Telegraph, questioned the Leader & Chief Executive of Merton Council and met with the AELTC. Merton's Lib Dem London Assembly Member Cllr Hina Bokari has also been working with colleagues on the London Assembly to raise this issue with the Mayor of London.
Despite all our efforts, and those of the wider community, the AELTC have refused to scale back their plans. We must consequently prepare ourselves for a protracted battle - hence our reference to a 5 setter. However the more appropriate sporting analogy might be a double-header, as there will be two distinct phases in our campaign, focusing on two separate hurdles the AELTC are trying to overcome.
Ultimately the All England Club cannot proceed with their plans to develop the park because Merton Council own the benefit of a covenant which prevents them building on the land they have acquired. Provided Merton Council can be persuaded to enforce their covenant, the AELTC cannot proceed. Unfortunately the Council are currently refusing to confirm they will enforce the covenant. However before we confront that issue, the All England Club first need to be granted planning permission from both Merton and Wandsworth Councils. We are consequently focusing on the planning issue this summer.
The AELTC's proposals are likely to be considered at a special meeting of Merton's Planning Committee to be held sometime in September, followed by a separate meeting of Wandsworth's committee in October. It is crucial that the community's voice is heard loud and clear at both those meetings.
Just last month the AELTC updated their application with 60 new documents. The AELTC describes the amendments as “minor”, and the core principles of the scheme are unchanged: there will still be an 8,000 seat stadium and 38 courts built on Capability Brown’s historical Metropolitan Open Land. The new park remains “permissive” rather than “public” and contains a 30,000sqft Central Maintenance Hub for all the new courts.
- Unacceptable Environmental Impact. The former golf course will be excavated, infilled, and levelled to deliver the new tennis complex over 7 years, threatening protected priority habitats. Claims for biodiversity net gains have been challenged in expert analysis.
- 300 mature trees will be felled, others moved, and an estimated 500 younger trees will be uprooted in the excavations.
- This is a Grade II* Listed Heritage Site, precious open space, protected Green Belt.Once built upon, the protection will be lost, and it could become completely developed.
- At 28m high and 104m wide the Stadium will still dominate this protected open space, contrary to the 1993 covenant, and will stand empty for most of the year. The AELTC still won’t commit to full design and layout details.
- The new AELTC park will still belong to the AELTC, it still contains a 30,000sqft “central” maintenance hub, and public access to it and the walk around the lake is still only “permissive”: it may be withdrawn as their commercial priorities change. They admit that their Masterplan for the future of their estate is “an evolving vision”.
- With limited tournament use over just 3 weeks the density of courts and infrastructure across the site is excessive and disproportionate. Community access to play tennis will be negligible. Parking and the Queue will still be on public park land.
- The plans still assume Church Road will be closed during the Championships, even to pedestrians and cyclists.