Call for Minister to scrutinise football stadium plan

Published: 31 August 2016

Wandsworth Council has formally asked Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to intervene in the planning row with Merton over the controversial plans to redevelop Wimbledon Stadium.

The two local authorities have opposing views on the future use of the land and the impact the current redevelopment plans will have on residents and businesses in both boroughs.

The site lies right on the borough boundary and is earmarked for a new football stadium, 602 homes and a large supermarket.

If approved, the football stadium would initially have a ground capacity of 11,000 but with scope to rise to 20,000. It would become home to AFC Wimbledon which is reportedly in the process of selling the lease on its existing ground in Kingston to Chelsea FC for up to £2m.

Merton, which is the planning authority for the site, strongly supports the proposal, publicly stating it wants the football club to return to Wimbledon. In contrast Wandsworth has expressed serious concerns about the impact of the development on people living in Tooting and Earlsfield and local businesses.

Wandsworth argues that the scheme will create unreasonable pressure on the area’s transport network, with increased traffic congestion on roads and more passengers accessing already busy and crowded rail services at nearby Earlsfield Station.

Local campaigners also say the proposals do not provide enough parking spaces for such a large scale development.

Wandsworth’s view is that because the site lies on the borough boundary and its redevelopment will have a significant impact on both areas, the application needs independent scrutiny.

This was set to happen when the application was called in to be determined at Mayoral level by the previous Mayor Boris Johnson. However that decision was reversed earlier this month by his successor Sadiq Khan, who announced he was content to let the scheme proceed, even though he opposed it when MP for Tooting.

With the Mayor withdrawing from the process Wandsworth’s councillors believe the secretary of state should now step in to provide an impartial judgment.

In his letter to Mr Javid the leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia states: “Given the scale of the development and the direct and significant impact on this borough I am of the firm view that this matter requires an additional degree of scrutiny and assessment by an impartial authority.

“I was hoping that the new Mayor of London would provide this additional degree of scrutiny on the strategic matters raised by this proposal but he has decided not to utilise his powers in this instance.

“I would therefore request that you intervene in the determination of this planning application. This will enable a balanced decision on the application which reflects and mitigates the strategic impacts on both boroughs and give a higher degree of public confidence in the planning process.”

Speaking earlier this month, Wandsworth’s planning chairman Cllr Sarah McDermott said: “The fundamental problem with this development is that Merton gets all the gain while Wandsworth gets all the pain.

She added:  “Unfortunately the only way the football ground can be provided is if the developer is given permission to cram in an excessive number of homes on this site.

"Merton has already stated very publicly that it wants the football club to return, but as it stands this will be at the expense of our residents who will suffer from the increased pressure on local transport infrastructure and other public services.

“There are very valid concerns about this application on both sides of the borough boundary and these need to be examined objectively and impartially.

“Sadly, given the very public announcements of support from those in very senior positions at Merton, I’m afraid we have no confidence in its ability to fulfil its obligations as an impartial and objective planning authority."