Wimbledon to take £200m expansion fight to Mayor of London after council rejects plans

Wimbledon to take £200m expansion fight to Mayor of London after council rejects plans
Wimbledon to take £200m expansion fight to Mayor of London after council rejects plans

The All England Club will take their Wimbledon fight to the Mayor of London’s office after Wandsworth Council refused to pass its expansion plans on Tuesday night.

Wandsworth’s unanimous decision – which was widely expected after planning officers made their recommendation last week – means the first stage of the process returned a score draw. The proposed expansion site sits across a borough boundary, and Merton Council had supported the plans last month.

The proposals, which would cost in the region of £200million, have been met by fierce opposition locally, with more than 15,000 residents signing a petition against the expansion. The AELTC want to add 38 grass courts as well as a 8,000-seater Parkland Court on the 73-acre site.

“Naturally, we are disappointed by the London Borough of Wandsworth’s decision,” Wimbledon CEO Sally Bolton said. “Our proposals will deliver one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since 2012, alongside substantial benefits for the local community.

“We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project offers significant social, economic and environmental improvements, including turning 23 acres of previously private land into a new public park, alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Merton and across London.

“Given the split council decision, with the London Borough of Merton resolving to approve our application last month, our planning application will now be referred to the Mayor of London’s office for consideration.”

The plans, which are of potential strategic importance to London, will go to the Greater London Authority for consultation but Telegraph Sport has reported that Sadiq Khan has recused himself from the decision and instead will ask one of his deputies to review the project after previously praising the proposed expansion.

Putney MP Fleur Anderson said: “There is still more to be done and I will continue to campaign to save our green spaces in the next stages.”

At some stage, the Planning Inspectorate – which is a government agency – is expected to become involved. It would be surprising if the file didn’t end up on the desk of housing secretary Michael Gove, who is the country’s ultimate authority on planning issues.

Demonstrators from opposition groups such as Save Wimbledon Park (SWP) held signs outside the meeting on Tuesday, as they had done at the Merton equivalent last month.

“In sporting parlance, we move into the next round of the competition,” said SWP chairman Iain Simpson in a statement.

“We are pleased that points we have been making for over two years have finally been acknowledged by politicians. The next step is for the Greater London Authority to prevent any further damage to the environment and such important Open Spaces.”

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