A proposed project to construct a stadium with 8,000 seats and 38 additional tennis courts in Wimbledon’s Grade II*-listed park has been rejected by a London council.
The planning committee of Wandsworth council voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to deny the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s proposal to expand the size of the tennis championship grounds from 17 hectares to 46 hectares.
The council members concurred with the planning officers of Wandsworth who advised against the proposal, citing concerns that it would result in significant damage to the openness of the metropolitan open land.
After a lengthy discussion lasting over two and a half hours, the council voted 7-0 to deny the All England Club’s proposed developments, resulting in applause from the audience. Activists have criticized the club’s project, which involves a nine-story stadium, 5.5 miles of roads, 10 maintenance stations, and 38 additional grass courts at Wimbledon Park, as an “industrial tennis complex.”
Guy Humphries, a member of the Conservative party and a council member representing the Southfields ward, stated that he cannot remember any other instance of a planning application causing such widespread dissatisfaction among the public for various reasons.
Humphries said the All England Club “fails desperately” in its claim that there are “very special circumstances” that should allow it to build on Wimbledon Park, which is designated as metropolitan open land and was first designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century.
The All England Club stated that it is crucial to expand and improve its facilities in order to maintain Wimbledon’s status as the top tennis tournament in the world.
Ravi Govindia, a representative for East Putney and previous head of Wandsworth council, expressed that the All England club prides itself on the peacefulness of its property. However, he believes that the proposed plans deviate from the traditional English country garden aesthetic of tennis. “While I am in favor of investment in the area, this is not the appropriate approach,” he stated.
The All England Club, which has been around for 155 years, recently obtained approval from the planning committee of the nearby Merton authority. However, a small portion of the park falls within the boundaries of Wandsworth. As a result, the All England Club must secure permission from both councils and the mayor of London (and potentially Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities) in order to proceed with their project.
The chief executive of the All England Club, Sally Bolton, expressed her disappointment with the decision made by the London Borough of Wandsworth. She believes that their plans would bring about significant changes in the world of sports for London, similar to those seen in 2012, and also bring about positive impacts for the local community.
We strongly believe that the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project will bring about valuable social, economic, and environmental enhancements. This includes the transformation of 23 acres of formerly private land into a new park for public use, as well as the creation of numerous job opportunities and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for the surrounding areas of Wandsworth, Merton, and London.
“Following a divided council decision, the London Borough of Merton voted in favor of approving our application last month. As a result, our planning application will now be sent to the mayor of London’s office for evaluation.”