London mayor Sadiq Khan has overturned a decision of his predecessor Boris Johnson, and returned a planning decision over Wimbledon stadium to the local borough.
The move means Merton borough’s approval for the scheme, which was granted in December 2015, is likely to now stand as the final decision.
Khan’s team carried out a 14 day consultation, during which the public were invited to comment on the scheme. He said of his decision: “I have taken the time to consult local residents, businesses and other interested parties and, having weighed up all of the evidence available to me, I’m confident the stadium and the leisure facility proposed alongside it will be of great benefit to Londoners and the wider community for generations to come. As such, I have decided to return the application to the local council to determine itself.”
However, the Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association chair Iain Simpson decleared himself “extremely disappointed” with the decision, noting that just 9.6% of the 602 flats in the scheme would be affordable. He told the Wandsworth Guardian: “There are so many reasons why we and a lot of other people think he should have held onto this application and had an independent viewing. There are many points which have not been properly addressed. There’s so little affordable housing. This was his opportunity to show he had integrity about his election promises, and he has failed.”
The scheme in Wimbledon involves AFC Wimbledon, Galliard Homes and the Greyhound Racing Association working together to come up with a redevelopment that will see the end of greyhound racing on the site – but the return of the estranged football team to the borough.
Architect Sheppard Robson designed the scheme to include a new, 20,000 seat football stadium along with 602 homes. It was was unanimously approved by planning committee members at Merton, last December – before being called in by the mayor’s office.
While the Wimbledon redevelopment is considered not to to meet the precise requirements of the London plan, there were also concerns raised about the detailed design of the stadium frontages. The stage two report prepared by officials for mayor Boris Johnson on the proposals noted: “The nature of the proposals raise important considerations as to the future of cultural and sporting venues in London.” And, while the site has been earmarked for “intensification of a sporting activity”, there does not appear to be an issue about football displacing greyhound and stock car racing, the current uses of the existing stadium on the site.
However, mayor Khan noted a high level of support for the scheme. He said planning officers at Merton, Wandsworth and the GLA all recommended approval, and the previous mayor’s decision was against the advice of officers.
LPA Perspective: Khan appears to have acted fairly promptly on this application, once a fresh consultation was completed. Clearly, he sees some of the objections – such as that around traffic and nuisance from football crowds – as simply being blown out of proportion. While the scheme itself falls short of the borough’s desires regarding affordable homes, there are other wider community benefits from the football club’s presence, and Merton exceeded its 40% affordable housing target last year.
A scheme that will dislodge both greyhound racing fans, and stock car racers, and replace them with a venue having a larger draw, was always going to garner opposition. Fortunately, Khan has decided the locals know best.