Two MPs joined local residents at St Barnabas Church
September 22, 2023
There was a large turnout for a public meeting earlier this month to discuss the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) proposals to build on Wimbledon Park.
An audience estimated by organisers to number 350 residents turned up on Tuesday 12 September at St Barnabas Church, Southfields to discuss plans to build on Wimbledon Park. They were joined by the two local MPs Fleur Anderson and Stephen Hammond who have put aside party differences to campaign against the plans, which include plans to build 37 practice courts and an 8,000 seater stadium. Over 12,500 people have signed the online petition against the proposals.
As well as the MPs, speakers at the public meeting included organiser Simon Wright, Fleur Anderson MP, Stephen Hammond MP and a group of local residents, including legal and environmental experts.
Meeting Organiser Simon Wright said, “Last night 350 local residents, 2 MPs and a selection of local councillors came together to understand better the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s plans for developing Wimbledon Park.”
“After hearing about the environmental impact of these plans and the legal challenges they face not a single person in the room supported the approach taken by AELTC. This sends a powerful message to AELTC: withdraw your current planning application and sit down with community groups to come up with a better plan.”
AELTC did not send a representative to the public meeting, despite having been invited by both residents and Fleur Anderson MP.
The crowded church during the meeting
Ms Anderson said, “I have been campaigning for years alongside local people, to object to the AELTC plans to build on Wimbledon Park, which is Metropolitan Open Land. Residents organised an excellent public meeting on Tuesday evening, which I was glad to speak at. I explained the objections I have to the proposals as they stand, and why I am not reassured by AELTCs assurances.
“We all know how precious our green, public land is – we must fight tooth and nail to protect it. I love the tennis and everything that Wimbledon brings to our community in South West London – but these development proposals are simply not compatible with the climate crisis, and with residents’ wishes for the area in which they live.
“The next steps now are for AELTC to engage genuinely on residents’ terms rather than through third party consultation projects and tours.”
Iain Simpson, Chair of the Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association said,“The size of the turn out shows the depth of local feeling around AELTC’s proposals. Despite the fact they say they are listening to the community’s concerns, their no-show at the meeting is proof they simply don’t care what residents want, won’t listen and will go to any extremes to get their plans approved - damaging the environment in the process. 30 years ago they, and Merton Council, promised they wouldn't build on this land. Who knows what they may want in 2053? They simply cannot be trusted and this land must be protected for future generations.”
Christopher Coombe of the Save Wimbledon Park (SWP) group added, “The rights of the public have been ignored from the outset. This heritage park, the former municipal golf course, is subject to a statutory trust, giving members of the public the right to use it as an open space for recreation and enjoyment. Merton Council failed to follow the correct procedures leading up to the sale in 1993 and the covenants from that time also prevent this open space from being developed. AELTC promised not to develop and now talk of a public park - when it is anything but. It is simply a service area for their tournament and they can close it any time they choose."
CGI of the aerial view of the completed scheme. Picture: AELTC
The AELTC has said that its plan would actually increase public access to the site due to much of the area being occupied by the golf course.
If councillors on the planning committees of both Wandsworth and Merton borough approve the plans, then it is believed that it could take a decade for the project to be completed.
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