‘The Den’s’ pristine sheen to remain despite revamp


Millwall FC stadium update February 2020 Image: MIllwall FC/AFL

International architectural practice AFL Architects has revealed that it has taken a positive step forward vis-a-vis its proposals for the residence of Millwall FCThe Den. The announcement comes following dialogue with the club and residential developer Renewal.

Millwall FC is a professional football club in Bermondsey, South East London, England.

The local authority – Lewisham Council – gave its assent to a visionary new ground plan for the area around The Den. This is a significant step taken to make possible the successful regeneration of the wider Surrey Canal Triangle area, with Millwall FC essentially forming the main focus. However, the pristine sheen of The Den will remain. To this end, best efforts will be made to retain the original stadium infrastructure inside of the venue.

AFL, Millwall FC and the Renewal design team have been putting their heads together for the past few months to develop proposals for The Den and the area in and around it, known as New Bermondsey.

The development proposals entail incremental, phased expansion of the existing facility, up to a total maximum capacity of 34,000 seats, built as additional upper tiers behind the existing seating bowl. If this happens, it will equip the stadium with the amenities required to measure up to Premier League standards like additional media and player accommodation, sports hall, gym and a local café. It will also provide an enhanced match day experience to supporters. The present capacity of The Den stands at 20,146.

Part of the proposal also envisages creating a vibrant new public plaza at the heart of New Bermondsey, providing a valuable amenity for the surrounding community – new and old – as well as creating a space to keep fans engaged on game days. This is elevated over parking and service areas and includes retail, commercial and community use spaces along the street frontages. To harmonize with this will be flexible commercial space for events and conferencing, along with residential developments that would bring more funding to the venue’s vicinity.

Commented Steve Kavanagh, Millwall Chief Executive, “It has been a long and at times difficult journey to this point, but we are delighted with progress now. As long as we can secure an appropriate new lease, we can play our part in the growth and development of Millwall Football Club and its community. Over time we will bring our stadium up to Premier League standards while ensuring that our presence in Lewisham is sustainable and that we remain a force for good.”

“This news is the best of all possible outcomes. Not only does the club have a clear plan for their future growth that retains their unique brand, but the wider South Bermondsey community reap the benefits. It has been a long road for the club, but we are thrilled to be a part of this exciting, sustainable regeneration and look forward to putting the plans in motion,” remarked Bruce Caldwell, Associate Director, AFL Architects.

This diverse development mix will help further the long-term success of The Den, the club and the Millwall Community Trust.

Sports are the tool through which the Trust tries to ameliorate the lives of people in Lewisham, Southwark and the wider Millwall community. Through this funding stream, the Trust will gain much needed facility improvements and upgrades, including a new sports center with a sports hall, changing rooms, a gym and a community café.

Moreover, the Trust will gain entry to new mixed-use spaces within a proposed West Stand extension for potential classrooms or fitness studios. Externally, a zone to the south of the arena is proposed on non-match days as a multi-use games area.

The grand design of the development is to keep hold of as much of the existing stadium structure as possible.

A flexible phased uplift to both facilities and capacity of the venue will help in the long run to not only maintain the stadium in use for fans, but also keep to the minimum demolition and construction waste.

The whole design standpoint is to create spaces that are adaptable, flexible and multifunctional, encouraging activity within and around the stadium seven days a week to make optimum use of resources and create a sustainable future for the club at the heart of New Bermondsey.

The design of the new proposals has been drawn on by the history of Millwall FC and its milieu. The use of brickwork arches comments on the railway viaducts and industrial past that surround the present site, and also those at Millwall Park, which was home to the club on the Isle of Dogs over 100 years back, where the brick railway viaduct has been placed in the background of historic match photographs.

Caldwell further remarked, “The retention of much of the existing stadium structure ensures AFL is aligning our development plans with the Architecture Journal’s Retro First campaign, championing reuse in the built environment. We are also committed to using locally sourced traditional materials where possible, such as London Stock Brick for the stadium facades.”

The stadium expansion plans are contingent on the council’s nod to extend the club’s lease on the area.

It has previously been suggested that the land could be sold off to property developers, but Lewisham Council is not open to any such plan.

AFL Architects informed that the American commercial real estate services and investment firm – Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) – is a planning consultant on the project. CBRE is the largest commercial real estate services company in the world.

A statement issued by Millwall FC on its website welcomed the decision of Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet to terminate the conditional land sale agreement by which the freeholds of the land leased to Millwall Football Club and Millwall Community Trust could have been sold to a property developer.

The statement further read, “With the termination of that agreement, we can get on with our plans for extending the stadium and creating a vibrant new community in Lewisham. Millwall’s Chairman, Chief Executive and Senior Director met with the Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, and Lewisham’s Head of Programs on February 10 and had a wide-ranging, positive discussion about the way forward.”

“We now need to reach agreement with Lewisham Council on the new lease for The Den and adjoining land, the terms of which will be vital in ensuring our plans are viable. We expressed to the Mayor our wish that advancing the speed of these discussions is urgent and in everyone’s interests to unlock the potential of the development for all. Once we have agreed to a new lease we can prepare our planning application. It is our intention to link with a developer partner and discussions in that respect are well advanced,” the statement continued.

“Millwall’s ambition is to have a stadium with facilities that are ultimately fit for Premier League football, new sources of non-football revenues to provide long-term financial sustainability to the club, and new resources and facilities to benefit the local community. The significant benefits and opportunities resulting from our plans, both during construction and thereafter, are evident. There will be a hugely positive impact in terms of community, housing, health and well-being, employment, transport and public finances.”

“When Millwall moved to its current stadium in 1993, with help and support from the Council, we took on the obligation of providing facilities for the Millwall Community Trust (MCT) which supported its emergence as one of the best and most respected in the football world. We don’t need to be asked to maintain that obligation now. Our plans incorporate new facilities for the MCT including a sports center with a sports hall, changing rooms, a gym and a community café. In addition, the Trust will have access to new multipurpose spaces within a proposed West Stand extension for potential classrooms or fitness studios. Externally, a zone to the south of the stadium is proposed on non-match days as a multi-use games area,” the statement on the website concluded.

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