Planning setback for Wimbledon expansion


Wimbledon expansion hit by rejection of plans Image: Wimbledon Centre Court,, CC BY-SA 2.0

The All England Lawn Tennis Club’s plans to expand the Wimbledon tennis championships by building 39 new courts on a nearby park have hit a bump in the road.

The Guardian said that planning officers have advised one of the councils affected by the scheme to oppose the controversial plans.

Planning officials at Wandsworth Council have recommended that councillors vote to refuse the club’s proposal to build an 8,000-seat stadium show court and 38 grass courts on Grade II-listed Wimbledon Park at the authority’s planning committee this week.

The All England club last month successfully won the approval of neighbouring Merton Council but a small triangle of the park is within Wandsworth’s boundaries.

For the plans to go ahead, it needs to win the backing of both councils and the Mayor of London.

Wimbledon currently has 18 Championships grass courts, as well as 22 grass practice courts. So, the new courts would bring the club’s total up from 40 to 79 grass courts, almost doubling capacity for matches.

The Guardian further stated that the plans have angered many local residents and environmental groups, who said the park should be left as open space.

More than 14,000 people have signed a petition to “save Wimbledon Park” and in excess of 2,000 letters of objection have been received by the councils.

A spokesperson for the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said, “We are surprised that planning officers at the London Borough of Wandsworth have recommended refusal of the AELTC Wimbledon Park project, particularly after the London borough of Merton resolved to approve the application following extensive analysis and debate both in their officers’ report and at the planning committee.

“We regret that Wandsworth’s officers have taken a different view but it is for councillors on the planning applications committee to make their own considered decision at the meeting on 21 November.”

Fleur Anderson, the Labour MP for Putney, added, “I am delighted that Wandsworth council planning officers have recommended that the AELTC proposals for Wimbledon Park be refused. Wimbledon Park is protected, Grade II-listed metropolitan open land. This means that ‘very special circumstances’ must be proved for it to be built on.

“Wandsworth council planning officers have not found that these ‘very special circumstances’ exist and so have recommended the plans be refused. The campaign continues. Our precious green space must be defended. But this is a very positive step in the right direction.”

If Wandsworth council does approve the plans at its planning meeting on 21 November, the project will then be referred to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the Greater London Authority.

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