Wandsworth officers recommend scheme for refusal despite councillors at neighbouring Merton giving the OK last month
Allies & Morrison’s plans to treble the size of the Wimbledon championship’s grounds were dealt a blow last night after planning officers recommended the scheme for refusal ahead of a crucial meeting next week.
Wandsworth council is set to make a decision on the proposals to add an 8,000-seat show court and 38 new grass courts to the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) next Tuesday evening.
While the proposals received consent from Merton council, in which 90% of the 73-acre site is located, last month, the northern corner is located in Wandsworth and both councils need to approve the application for it to go ahead.
Wandsworth’s planning officers concluded that the plans constitute “inappropriate development” and would cause “substantial harm to the openness” of the metropolitan open land on the old Wimbledon Park Golf Club site.
Merton council’s planning officers had advised the scheme to be approved in a 450-page report on the basis of the “very special circumstances” of the scheme, a measure which Wandsworth officers said had not been met.
The advice given to Wandsworth councillors has been met with dismay by the AELTC, which previously described the scheme as “one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since the 2012 Olympics”.
Organisers of the championships have argued that the expansion is necessary to stop Wimbledon falling behind the three other grand-slam tournaments, the Australian, French and US opens.
There has also been a longstanding wish to hold the tournament’s qualifying event on site rather than three miles away in Roehampton.
A spokesperson for the AELTC said: “We are surprised that planning officers at the London Borough of Wandsworth have recommended refusal of the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project, particularly after the London Borough of Merton resolved to approve the application following extensive analysis and debate both in their officers’ report and at the planning committee.
“We regret that Wandsworth’s officers have taken a different view but it is for councillors on the planning applications committee to make their own considered decision at the meeting on 21 November.
“We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project will deliver substantial social, economic and environmental benefits, including 23 acres of newly accessible green space, alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Merton and across London.”
But the move has been warmly welcomed by opponents of the scheme, including the Labour MP for Putney, Fleur Anderson, who said she was “delighted” at the recommendation for refusal.
“Wimbledon Park is protected, Grade II*-listed metropolitan open land. This means that ‘very special circumstances’ must be proved for it to be built on,” Anderson said.
“Wandsworth council planning officers have not found that these ‘very special circumstances’ exist and so have recommended the plans be refused. The campaign continues. Our precious green space must be defended. But this is a very positive step in the right direction.”
If Wandsworth councillors defy the recommendation and approve the plans, the application will be referred to London mayor Sadiq Khan and secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Michael Gove.