Decision Day Looms for Wimbledon Tennis Plans

Both Merton and Wandsworth to consider AELTC proposals this month

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

April 14, 2023

The controversial proposal by the All England Lawn Tennis Club to develop a new stadium and court complex on Wimbledon Park are set to be discussed at two planning meetings.

The borough planning committees of both Merton and Wandsworth are both expected to have the associated applications on their agenda in the last week of April.

AELTC want to build an 8,000-seat stadium along with 38 courts to host the annual Wimbledon tennis championships.

The proposals have met with significant opposition with nearly 10,000 people signing a petition against them and the two local MPs united against them despite being from different parties. Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond and Putney’s Fleur Anderson have signed a joint letter against the scheme.

Residents have described the plan as an ‘industrial scale development’ on protected green space with the loss of 300 mature trees. The ‘Save Wimbledon Park’ campaign has been set up with the support 12 local residents’ associations as well as four local heritage and environmental organisations and three national bodies.

Fleur Anderson said, “I have fought alongside local residents against these plans, which will dramatically reduce public access to Wimbledon Park which should be open to all the public. I have asked to speak to the Planning Committee to make our opposition clear. It is protected Metropolitan Open Land and when the golf club were allowed temporary use of the land by Merton Council, it was on the strict proviso that it would not be built on.

“Most of the land will be closed to the public all the time and the stadium will be very large, and the ‘park’ strip of land will be closed for many months of the year and has not protection that it won’t be developed on in a few years too. I am grateful for those brave residents who went before us and stood up to developers so that we have our existing parks and commons, and we should do all we can to save this green space too. Merton and Wandsworth Councils have both declared a climate emergency and so surely can’t approve this plan.”

Wimbledon Park

She has also held several public meetings to hear local views and raise these with the AELTC, who she says haven’t changed its plans at all. She has also met with Merton and Wandsworth councillors and written to all members of Merton and Wimbledon Council, Ian Hewitt and Sally Bolton of AELTC, incoming Chair of Wimbledon Debbie Jevans.

She added, “I would encourage all residents to sign the petition and learn more about the campaign. This is not nimbyism, this is an issue of public access to green space, protecting our environment and opposing large-scale development in a residential area.”

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

AELTC Chief Executive Sally Bolton says that if they obtain planning permission they will undertake a legally binding permanent commitment to offer public access to the parkland.

Its spokesperson commented, “The park will be one of the largest areas of private land to be opened for public use in London, having been inaccessible to the public for over 100 years. The park will only closed to public use for a short period during event build and during periods for safety reasons, it will be open during these events as it is one of the new ways of entering The Championships.

“Even during the Qualifying and Championships closure period we will still maintain a route through the AELTC public park for the public to use. It will also be open to the public to use throughout the remainder of the year.

“We are minimising the impact of the maintenance building by putting it mainly underground – only a fraction will be visible and it will be covered by a green roof that blends into the natural landscape.”

The applications had been expected to be determined by the borough planning committees last year with November being the previous date when a decision was thought likely. However, more information was requested on the environmental aspect of the schemes which resulted in further delays.

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

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