Red card for Mayor over his football stadium decision

Published: 27 July 2016

The announcement that Mayor Sadiq Khan is likely to give the green light to hugely controversial plans for a 20,000 seat football stadium and more than 600 homes on the site of the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium has sparked criticism from councillors in Wandsworth.

The Mayor today (Wednesday) revealed that he was abandoning the decision of his predecessor to “call in” the football stadium planning application for further scrutiny in order to make the decision at Mayoral level.

Neighbouring Merton Council had previously announced its backing for the redevelopment plans for the dog stadium site, which lies on the borough boundary, supporting a new football stadium plus 602 homes and a large supermarket. Only ten per cent of the new homes are “affordable”.

Wandsworth councillors have always argued that the scale and nature of the application will have a significant impact on people living in Tooting and Earlsfield, as well as local businesses.

This many new homes and a large stadium is likely to create significant extra pressure on the area’s transport network, with increased traffic congestion and more passengers accessing local rail services, especially at the already busy and crowded Earlsfield Station.

Critics also say the proposals do not provide enough parking spaces for such a large scale development, especially when this would also need to include coaches for the away team and their fans.

There are also concerns that pavement infrastructure around the ground is insufficient to cater for up to 20,000 football fans – especially if this number of people exit at the same time once the final whistle has blown - and that this could put pedestrian safety at risk.

Large numbers of pedestrians, potentially walking in big groups, are likely to spill out from the pavement onto road surfaces adding to congestion and traffic delays - as well as an increase in vehicle pollution.
There are fears too that new residential accommodation on this scale could make it much more difficult for existing residents to access local GP and hospital services, and concerns too that including a large retail space on the site could have an adverse impact on nearby shops and businesses.

Wandsworth’s leader Ravi Govindia said: “This is a very disappointing decision by the Mayor which paves the way for major upheaval and disruption in Earlsfield and Tooting.

“Building a large football stadium and many hundreds of new homes here will certainly have an impact on the area and will inevitably lead to increased pressure on local transport infrastructure and other public services.

“When Mr Khan was MP for Tooting he opposed these plans because of the impact this development would have on his constituents. Quite why he has changed his mind so dramatically in the space of just a few months is difficult to fathom.

“The very small proportion of affordable homes being built on this site also flies in the face of Mr Khan’s manifesto pledge that he wanted to see a 50 per cent level on all big housing developments. Ten per cent is a long way short of 50, and there are very few community benefits included in this application and a wholly insufficient amount of money set aside for transport upgrades.

“There is also serious concern that the extra traffic congestion and road closures that will be put in place every time a football match is played will mean additional difficulties for ambulances taking emergency patients to St George’s Hospital – a regional trauma centre that’s only a few hundreds yards away. Plough Lane is a vital transport corridor to the hospital which may be blocked or closed off on match days.

“This development is going to have a huge adverse impact on the area. It is extremely disappointing that the Mayor has abandoned the decision of his predecessor and failed to give our arguments the consideration they so obviously deserve.”