London | Wimbledon expansion plans under fire

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The All England Lawn Tennis Club’s aspirations to build a new 8,000 seater show ground in the parklands across Church Road are facing growing resistance from local residents and local authorities.

“This is a unique opportunity to not only cement London’s position as the world’s leading world-class sports venue, but also to create this extraordinary new public park for our local community, dramatically increasing access to green spaces and providing an important sanctuary for nature. Sally Bolton, AELTC Executive Director

The proposed stadium would become the third largest arena on the Wimbledon grounds, slightly smaller than Court 1 and Center Court.

The expansion of the existing grounds has been in place for some time and the Club has endeavored to present the project as an ecological improvement to the land currently used as a private golf course, emphasizing that this, along the lake, made accessible to the public outside the Championships.

The plans, however, which include the proposed new show ground and 39 grass pitches on a designated metropolitan open ground, will allow qualifying competitions to be played on site ahead of the championships, but are opposed by a coalition of MPs, advisers and premises. residents’ associations.

According to several reports, local authority planning hearings are due to be scheduled for the end of September when Merton and Wandsworth councils make the initial appeal, but it is suggested that the final decision could be taken to the Mayor of London’s office, or even to the Secretary of State.

Ahead of this year’s grass-court Grand Slam, the original planning request was changed, but the changes were not enough to satisfy the opposition.

Looking north over Lake Wimbledon Park from the newly accessible park

Wimbledon.com

The AELTC points out that the land is currently only available to members of the neighboring golf club, who are expected to move out by the end of the year to make way for expansion plans.

In a published statement, the AELTC said: “The AELTC Wimbledon Park project proposals have been designed with two main objectives in mind: to keep the Championships at the top of tennis and to provide substantial public benefit to our local community. .

“At the heart of these proposals is the opening up of previously private land for the benefit of thousands of local residents in Merton and Wandsworth.

“Benefits include the creation of a new 9.4 hectare public park, a new promenade around Lake Wimbledon Park and community use of the new courts and facilities offered over the year.”

“We believe these benefits, along with others such as an increase in site biodiversity and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy that our community can enjoy for years to come.”

Proposed new Parkland performance ground could accommodate 8,000 fans

Wimbledon.com

The £100m expansion scheme has inspired remarkable political unity among its opponents, with Tory Stephen Hammond of Wimbledon and Fleur Anderson of Labor in Putney both staunchly opposed to the development.

Many meetings and debates have already taken place, and it seems likely that more will follow, making it highly unlikely that the AELTC will be able to inaugurate the new venue anytime soon, if at all.

Hammond and Anderson both say the plans are ‘inappropriate’ and are calling on Merton and Wandsworth councils to reject the application for full planning permission for the courts and associated infrastructure, which would include ‘landscape reprofiling and removal , retention and replanting of trees”.

The application also calls for the provision of a promenade around the perimeter and across Lake Wimbledon Park, alterations to the lake, road works to Church Road and new pedestrian access points.

“Local residents appreciate the world-class sporting event that exists in our area, but there is strong local opposition to these plans,” Mr. Hammond and Ms. Anderson said in a joint statement.

“The new area of ​​Wimbledon Park is a small part of the development which will have no protection against future development and will be primarily closed to the public for at least 5 weeks each summer.

“The size and massing of the new show ground stadium is of an inappropriate scale to be built on Metropolitan Open Land.”

The two MPs have asked councils to hold a ‘special comprehensive planning committee’ to discuss the development proposal only.

“We both agree on the importance of protecting our local green spaces, responding to the climate emergency, and carefully and rigorously considering all proposed developments that will impact the communities we represent,” says the press release.

A view of the proposed new Parkland courts

Wimbledon.com

An AELTC spokesperson said the plan involves the opening up of previously private land “to be enjoyed by residents of Merton and Wandsworth” with benefits that he hopes will “provide a lasting legacy to our community. for the coming years”.

“We are always open to comments, questions and feedback from our local communities,” the spokesperson said. “Throughout this process, which began over a year ago, we have held several community engagement events and continued to proactively consult with local residents and elected officials.”

Wimbledon residents fear the lorries will cause traffic chaos in their neighborhood, setting out their concerns in a letter to the council’s planning department, while Wimbledon society stresses there will be a ‘substantial increase’ in the construction traffic, in part due to more than 54,000 cubic meters of soil that must be removed from the site.

In a letter, the Wimbledon Society said: ‘We believe that the environmental impact of ground movements and the substantial increase in construction traffic have been significantly underestimated by planning documents.

“This serious underestimation casts doubt on the proposed schedule, as well as its environmental figures and calculations in this complex application.

“Without further clarity, the request should be dismissed or withdrawn and amended again.”

The AELTC estimates that there would be just over 4,700 truck movements for the project.

If approved, the plans, submitted to the councils of Merton and Wandsworth in 2021, could increase the daily capacity of the annual tennis tournament from 42,000 to 50,000 per day.

A Club spokesman said the AELTC was still reviewing the content of the Wimbledon Society letter.

On wimbledon.comSally Bolton, AELTC Chief Executive, said: “This is a unique opportunity to not only cement London’s position as the world’s leading world-class sports venue, but also to create this extraordinary new public park for our local community, significantly increasing access to green spaces and providing an important sanctuary for nature.

For more information on the AELTC Wimbledon Park project, click HERE.

Views of the proposed Wimbledon Parkland site from the north

Wimbledon.com

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