Residents Unhappy About Plough Lane Late Licence Bid

Claim there are already issues with supporters on match days

Plough Lane Stadium entrance
Plough Lane Stadium entrance

August 2, 2023

Residents living near Plough Lane have criticised plans for a football stadium to serve alcohol later, saying football fans already ‘wee in their gardens’ and even ‘fall asleep’ on the sofas in their building’s communal lounges.

Merton Council has received plans from The Wider Interests of Football Limited to extend the opening hours of Plough Lane Stadium, home of AFC Wimbledon.

The application seeks to open the main stadium from 9am to 11pm every day, while also selling alcohol during these hours. This includes Saturdays, when alcohol sales are not permitted under the current licence.

The main stadium currently opens at 11.00am from Sunday to Friday, opening an hour earlier on Saturdays. The closing times are reported as currently being 11.00pm from Monday to Saturday and 9.00pm on Sundays. Alcohol is currently served within these hours apart from Saturdays.

The application has received 11 objections from neighbours of the stadium. Concerns were largely raised over the disturbance caused by loud music that comes from the venue under the current opening hours. One neighbour said the new opening hours would make it ‘impossible’ for residents to sleep.

One resident living in the block of flats next to the station said: “We have young kids and cannot open windows on match nights due to loud noise and disruption. We are also concerned over lack of security already being an issue with the activity on the grounds as members of the public have frequently accessed the communal areas of our property, acting with drunk and disorderly conduct (p******g up the walls in our communal garden, falling asleep on the sofa in our lounges).”

Regarding preventing crime and disorder, the applicant said in their application that the stadium will only be open to fans two hours after matches finish. They also said the stands of the venue will only be accessible by ticket holders from three hours before kick-off, and that a senior member of staff would be supervising to encourage patrons to leave in an orderly fashion.

They added: “On football match days at the stadium, the stadium will have adequate stewarding and security supervision collectively as set out pursuant to the AFC Wimbledon Stewarding Plan agreed and approved by the Merton safety advisory group from time to time.”

Neighbours of the stadium also said they were worried about the extended hours for selling alcohol. Alongside alcohol in the main stadium being sold on Saturdays, the changes would extend sales in the corporate suites and directors’ boxes of the arena to 12.30am on weekdays, 1am on weekend evenings and 11.30pm on Sundays. Alcohol sales in these suites are currently limited to 11pm from Sunday to Friday.

A neighbour said in their objection: “My family and I live [nearby] and suffer enough from the drunk behaviour of football fans (urinating on our building, littering), and we do not wish this behaviour to last later and increase. We feel the changes would affect the safety of this area.”

The application for the changes to the licence said that an incident log book will be kept at the stadium, which would be available for inspection upon request by the police and the council. Incidents include all crime, fans being kicked out or refusals to sell alcohol. A comprehensive digital CCTV system is also required to be available, which will operate 24 hours a day and cover all public areas.

The decision on the stadium’s extended opening hours will be discussed at a licensing sub-committee meeting for Merton Council on 8 August.

Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter