The All England Club has come under fire from local MPs for its high-handed approach to the new development site at neighbouring Wimbledon Park Golf Club.
Fleur Anderson and Stephen Hammond – who are respectively the Labour MP for Putney and the Conservative MP for Wimbledon – were united in their criticism when they were interviewed by the BBC for Sunday morning’s Politics London show.
“I’m really disappointed Wimbledon hasn’t negotiated,” said Anderson, who stressed the need to protect London’s green spaces. “They’ve come to consultations but they haven’t moved at all. Maybe there could be a pop-up stadium, maybe there could be protections.”
Hammond said that he had hosted local residents’ groups in his own back garden as they tried to thrash out a more palatable solution than the current plans – which include 39 new grass courts and a permanent 8,000-seat stadium.
“What we want to do is get a proper solution for our residents and the club and there is one available,” said Hammond. “They [the All England Club] just need to come and start talking. This is not the right plan.”
The All England Club spent £65 million in 2018 on buying out the golf club, with members each pocketing an £85,000 windfall as a result. Plans were then made public in April last year, but proposals for the new “Parkland” stadium immediately sparked opposition among local residents.
A recent assessment by sustainability consultants Jam predicted that the development would create 50,000 tons of building waste, and queried whether it was really necessary to have 39 new courts on the site.
A “Save Wimbledon Park” campaign has found widespread support from 12 local residents’ association, as well as four local heritage and environmental associations. The planning departments of the two boroughs involved – Merton and Wandsworth – say that they are likely to come to a decision early next year. But that could be no more than the start of a lengthy process involving the London Mayor’s office and protracted legal wrangling
Remarkably, the All England Club declined to send a representative to appear on Politics London, which will be televised at 10am on Sunday, saying that no-one was available.
As Hammond pointed out, “If they were really interested in open active engagement, they would have joined you this morning, and I think part of the problem has been that throughout this process, the All England Club could have done more to speak to local people.”
In a statement, the All England Club said “Throughout this process, we have been committed to active and open engagement with the community, and are delighted that over 4,000 people have attended a consultation event or site visit.”