Wimbledon expansion set for a HUGE boost as local officers back plans

Wimbledon’s ‘Disneyland’ expansion project is set for a HUGE boost as local officers back plans to build 38 new courts and a 8,000-seater stadium on a neighbouring golf course – but residents’ groups are still against it

  • Wimbledon’s chiefs are planning to expand onto a neighbouring golf course
  • Their scheme received a major boost as local officers backed the expansion
  • The project is then expected to be passed on to the London Mayor’s office

Wimbledon’s ambitions to expand onto its neighbouring golf course are set to pass a significant opening hurdle after local planning officers recommended giving the scheme the go-ahead.

Merton Council’s ruling Labour group is now expected to back the project, which will include 38 new grass courts, including a 8,000 seat stadium on the former Wimbledon Park golf course.

However, that is unlikely to be the end of the matter as the application is expected to be passed on to the London Mayor’s office, and could subsequently go up to national government level. There may well also be a separate legal challenge from residents’ groups and conservation bodies who are opposed to the scheme.

They were on Monday night digesting a 524-page document which was published earlier that day and concludes that it should pass on the basis of what are termed ‘Very Special Circumstances’.

The basis is that the benefits of the project, which includes a 23-acre public park being created, outweigh blemishes to the Capability Brown landscape and other concerns which are also acknowledged. There remain complex legal questions over covenants attached to the area.

Wimbledon hopes to expand onto a neighbouring golf course but needs planning permission

The scheme received a major boost on Monday as local planning officers backed the project

The huge advisory document states that ‘Officers consider the proposed development would result in physical harm to the MOL (Metropolitan Open Land) due to the impact on openness.’

However, other factors have been taken into consideration, such as more than £8.6million of enhancements being promised to the wider Wimbledon Park area and amenities. The economic impact has also been weighed and among the sweeteners are 500 tickets per day being offered to locals at face value for the new ‘Parkland’ stadium.

‘Officers consider the proposed development would carry substantial public benefits which amount to Very Circumstances that demonstrate harm to the MOL, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other material considerations,’ it reads.

The aim is to bring the qualifying event on-site from its current location in Roehampton: Another section reads: ‘Officers consider the proposed development by enabling the Qualifying Event and increasing the capacity of The Championships (from roughly 42,000 to 50,000) would have considerable benefit in terms of economic activity and growth which would be felt at the local, London and national scale.’

The report also looks at the ecological impacts of a plan which Wimbledon maintains is essential to maintain its position at the top of the international game.

The very large majority of the plan falls within the borough of Merton, which is due to hear the application at a full planning meeting next week. It looks assured that the Labour majority will back it, although there will be objections from Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. A much smaller portion falls within Wandsworth, which will hear it next month.

A coalition of local residents’ groups and other bodies feel that the scheme represents a huge over-development and are sure to make their feelings known.

There now appears little prospect of any completion until the 2030s, even if the All England Club manage to clear other procedural and legal obstacles. 

A Wimbledon spokesperson said: ‘We are pleased that planning officers at the London Borough of Merton have recommended the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project for approval. Our plans will be considered by members of the Council’s Planning Committee and we hope they feel able to support their officers’ positive recommendation.’

The controversial scheme has angered several residents’ groups and conservation bodies

 All England Club want to build 38 courts and a new 8,000-seat stadium on nearby golf course

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