Objections To Wimbledon Tennis Plan Reach 1,000

Councillor claims restrictive covenant could prevent AELTC scheme

CGI of the Parklands Show Court, part of the All England Tennis Club plan. Picture: AELTC

Calls to block a huge expansion to Wimbledon Tennis Club have been made after more than 1,000 people objected to a planning application.

The famous All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) wants to expand into the neighbouring Wimbledon Park Golf Club.

If approved it would span 67 hectares between Wimbledon and Wandsworth.

But the plans have faced opposition with more than 1,000 public objections and 30 letters of support.

At a Merton Council meeting tonight (Wednesday, November 17) Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Kohler will call on the authority to block the plans.

He claims that a restrictive covenant – a clause in a contract – could prevent the halt the building even if planning permission was granted.

Cllr Kohler said, “When the council sold the freehold of the Wimbledon Golf Club site to the All England Club in 1993 they gave public assurances that they would never build on the land, backed up with a legally enforceable covenant in the sale agreement.

“Now the All England Club is trying to go back on its word and break its promises to the Council and to Wimbledon residents.

“By pressing ahead with these plans in spite of the significant opposition of local residents, and in flagrant disregard of its historic promises not to build on the land, the All England Club is showing complete contempt for the people of Wimbledon.”

But AELTC hits back at this claim on its website, writing, “This is not a matter considered in planning.”

Bird's eye view of how the Wimbledon Tennis Club could look by 2028
Bird's eye view of how the Wimbledon Tennis Club could look by 2028. Picture: AELTC

The AELTC wants to build 39 new grass courts as well as an 8,000 seat “parkland show court” and says this would mean qualifying matches of the tournament could be moved from Roehampton to Wimbledon.

The club bought the leasehold of the golf course back in 2018, it already owned the freehold. It is set to take over the northern part of the course in 2022, and the rest of it in the following year.

The Wimbledon Society has also come out against the plans for a number of reasons including concerns about major disruption in the eight year building phase.

The society said: “he environmental impact due to the scale of the project will be significant.

“The stadium and the 10 ancillary buildings require large concrete foundations, and each of the 38 courts will have a concrete surround. The stadium will be mostly concrete.”

Wimbledon Park Golf Club
Wimbledon Park Golf Club

It adds that the development would be the largest in Wimbledon in modern times.

AELTC addresses a series of concerns on its website under the heading “mythbusting”.

Here it said, “We take the importance of preserving the local environment and heritage very seriously.

“Therefore, central to our proposals is the creation of one of London’s first new public parks since the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opened almost a decade ago.

“The new park will be 9.4 hectares and will allow public access to the previously private golf course land located within the southern part of the site. The site includes a large number of trees (and other vegetation) set around the golf course layout.”

Public consultation on the application has now closed but if approved AELTC expects the development would be ready for the 2028 tournament.

There are currently a total of 40 tennis courts on site and the grand slam tournament held there each year attracts 500,000 visitors.

But the club wants to make more room for the event. In the planning application it says the 18 championship courts are packed into the site and stretch along Church Road leading to congestion.

If the plans are given the green light the daily capacity of the event could increase from 42,000 to 50,000 a day.

The plans include creating route around Wimbledon Park Lake and creating an area of deeper water for sports.

It would also create a pedestrian link between Wimbledon Park station to Wimbledon Village.

The planning application said: “The AELTC Wimbledon Park Project is a once in a generation opportunity to maintain The Championships as the premier tennis tournament in the world, and deliver a positive impact for our communities, in particular our local community.”

Public consultation on the plans closes on 19 September and if the plans are approved, AELTC hopes the development would be ready for the 2028 tournament.

The plans have been put in to both Merton and Wandsworth councils.

Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter

November 17, 2021