- All England Club want to build 38 courts and a stadium on nearby golf course
- The scheme has yet to be formally considered by council planning committees
- Labour and Conservative MPs for Putney and Wimbledon united against scheme
Wimbledon found itself harangued and ridiculed over its expansion plans at a packed public meeting for local residents, with one accusing it of trying to create a ‘tennis Disneyland’.
The depth of feeling against the scheme to build 38 courts and a new 8,000-seat stadium on a neighbouring golf course was clear, as more than 250 people turned up to the standing room-only event.
With the All England Club declining to attend they were ’empty-chaired’, with a racket placed on where a representative would have been seated.
The two MPs for Putney and Wimbledon, Labour’s Fleur Anderson and Conservative Stephen Hammond, were again united against a scheme which has yet to be formally considered by council planning committees, nearly five years after the lease on adjacent golf course was bought out by Wimbledon.
Anderson described what she saw as ‘an industrial-scale development in our park’ and criticised consultations, saying ‘The way they have been run is very poor’. She called for the tournament to concentrate its efforts on developing its qualifying event site at Roehampton rather than build on the golf course.
Wimbledon residents have hit out at the All England Club’s ‘Disneyland’ expansion plans
All England Club want to build 38 courts and a new 8,000-seat stadium on nearby golf course
The controversial scheme has yet to be formally considered by council planning committees
Hammond suggested that the Grand Slam venue should go back to the drawing board and come up with something more acceptable: ‘It’s the wrong application, it’s too big, they don’t need that many courts and an 8,000-seat stadium on Metropolitan Open Land is simply not right,’ he said.
The many legal complexities around the application were outlined by local property lawyer Christopher Coombe, who suggested that historical statutes around the Capability Brown-designed land may prevent any development.
As speaker after speaker attacked the plans and potential environmental impacts, the prospect of crowdfunding legal action against any approval was raised. A show of hands at the end showed blanket opposition to the scheme.
There was, however, an element of self-selection to the meeting, and there are undoubtedly people in the area who, more quietly, do not hold any such strong objections. Wimbledon would argue that expansion is necessary for itself to maintain parity with the other Grand Slams.
A racket was placed on a empty chair after All England Club declined to attend public meeting
Either way, it is unlikely that the whole planning process will be resolved any time soon. At present yet another date for the application to be heard by Merton and Wandsworth Councils has come and gone. While it is possible that a hearing could take place this year, some insiders expect it to be January at the earliest.
After that there is the likelihood that it will be called in by the London Mayor’s office and potentially the Secretary of State. A general election, together with elections for the Greater London Authority next year, could further complicate the whole passage.
All England Club Chief Executive Sally Bolton commented in a statement: ‘These proposals have been rightly and properly subject to a very high level of assessment and consultation both prior to and since their submission.
‘To date, we have hosted 56 guided tours of the former golf course land and a further nine events at which local residents have had the opportunity to speak to members of the project team and learn more. We are pleased that more than 4,600 attendees have come along to one of our consultation events, with the overwhelming majority really excited about the plans.’