London mayor’s office to decide on All England Lawn Tennis Club’s proposal to build on park in face of local opposition (Wimbledon awaits ruling on plans to expand tennis championship grounds)
"An epic planning battle between the All England Lawn Tennis Club and its neighbours will reignite on Monday when the mayor of London’s office rules on whether to allow Wimbledon to expand on to a Grade II*-listed park.
The AELTC, which has been running the championships since 1877, has applied for permission to build an 8,000-seat stadium and a further 38 tennis courts on Wimbledon Park, which was landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century and is specially protected as “metropolitan open land”.
The plans, to almost triple the size of the tennis championship grounds from 17 hectares (42 acres) to 46 hectares, have been approved by Merton council but rejected by neighbouring Wandsworth council. Wimbledon Park stretches into both boroughs so in order for the plans to go ahead it needed to be approved by both councils.
Merton referred the decision to the Greater London Authority, and the deputy mayor of London, Jules Pipe, will make a ruling on the plans on Monday. Pipe could either refuse the application, or call for a full planning review, which is unlikely to start until after the general election. Insiders indicate that a full review is the mostly outcome.
The decision officially lies with the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, but he recused himself because he publicly expressed support for the expansion in 2021.
Almost 300 trees would be removed to allow the AELTC’s building plans, which some locals described as “corporate ecocide”. The club said most of the trees were “poor quality” and said it would plant 1,500 new trees.
More than 16,000 people have signed a petition to “save Wimbledon Park” and 2,000 letters of objection have been received by the councils. The local Conservative MP, Stephen Hammond, and the Labour MP Fleur Anderson have also joined forces to oppose the All EnglandAELTC’s plans.
Anderson, the MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, said: “I oppose these plans because they are a huge development on gold standard protected metropolitan open land. This will put in danger all of our green spaces in London. Only a small part of the development will be public park and AELTC have refused to protect this from future development.
“I urge all Londoners concerned about our public access to green space and clean air to submit their opposition to City Hall on the Wimbledon tennis application for developing Wimbledon Park.”
Iain Simpson, the chair of the Save Wimbledon Park campaign group, said: “Since Save Wimbledon Park was formed in the summer of 2021, nothing has changed our thinking around AELTC’s proposed plans. If the benefits to the community are so great why won’t they sit down with us and explain what they are? The scale of the development is too big, as both MPs have said, and the damage to the environment is too great.”
A spokesperson for the AELTC said: “We firmly believe that our proposals offer significant social, economic and environmental improvements, including new access to green space with 23 acres of previously private land turned into a new public park. This is alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Merton and across London.”