Wimbledon Park Rifle Club facing demolition to make way for nursery and tennis courts
Putney MP Fleur Anderson with some of the club's members
A shooting club in Southfields is fighting for survival over plans to build a nursery and tennis courts on its grounds. The Wimbledon Park Rifle Club has called the area home since 1904, sending members to the Olympics and British Championships.
But the famous club fears it may have to shut forever after its lease expired. More than 24,800 people have signed a petition to save the "private allotments" used by members on the site, calling them a "wonderful sanctuary". Putney MP Fleur Anderson has also thrown her support behind the historic club.
The club's site on Granville Road was bought in the 1990s, and the club obtained a 20-year lease from landlord Brian Peck, from developer ISC Limited, which expired in September 2021.
The new plans would see the club's buildings, open air shooting ranges and "private allotments" demolished to make way for a nursery and mini tennis courts for children. The nursery would be big enough for 100 children with 20 to 25 staff.
A statement with the application says, "The applicant is confident that WPRC members can be accommodated at nearby clubs that have at least equivalent facilities."
But the shooting club wants to preserve its unique history. Members say it's the only shooting club in London to offer floodlit ranges along with space and equipment to train people in the sport. The site is listed as an asset of community value by Wandsworth Council.
Jon Leech, president of WPRC, and a member since 1974, said, "We've been on our land since 1904. The whole of Southfields has been built around us and we are completely safe. We've never had an incident and we don't get complaints about noise or anything else." He added: "It's a lovely tranquil spot â€“ the neighbours all love it."
Members of the club regularly compete nationally and internationally â€“ including at the British Championships every year. Eight members of the team competed in the 1908 Olympics in London, according to Mr Leech, who said the club was "the most famous in the world" at the time.
He continued: "It's not paintballing. It's not running around with guns. It's a very peaceful, careful sport."
Putney MP Fleur Anderson attended an open day in support of the club on 8 May, along with around 50 locals. Calling for the plans to be rejected, she said there is "no shortage" of nursery school places but a "waiting list of nearly 10 years for an allotment in Wandsworth".
Mr Peck said: "We are deeply committed to the idea of providing a use at site which is inclusive, and benefits the entire community. In our view, the development of three mini tennis courts for children's coaching sessions will open up the site to a wider age range of children, learning a sport which we view as more appropriate than learning how to shoot guns.
"The development of a new day nursery at Granville Road will also be of significant benefit to the community in the surrounding area as there is a shortage of professionally run nurseries which open from 7am â€“ 7pm. This presents an issue for parents who wish to drop off and pick up their children at either end of the working day.
"Given this high demand for full-day nursery space, we have already received expressions of interest from several companies who would be keen to open a nursery on the site â€“ particularly given the proposed nursery will be A-rated for energy efficiency.
"We have furthermore worked closely with professional transport consultants throughout the planning process and have set clear targets for the development to increase walking and cycling to the site once the nursery is open. As part of the planning process we have also worked with ecologists to identify extensive biodiversity enhancement and management measures for the site."
He added that â€˜green areas' tended by shooting club members weren't official allotments. The landlord continued: "We have consulted widely on these proposals, making clear the benefits that the development will deliver â€“ increasing the availability of inclusive, appropriate sporting facilities, addressing the demand for full-day nursery care, and enabling both biodiversity net gain and an increase of sustainable travel to the site."
May 18, 2022