It would seem that the long running and controversial application by the AELTC will soon move to the next stage and be considered by the Planning Committee. I have set out my objections to the application in several editions of the WPRA Newsletter. There are four principal areas of concern, the stadium and building on Metropolitan Open land, the number of courts, the new park and its accessibility, and the closure of Church Road.
The AELTC application will be heard by the planning committees of both Wandsworth and Merton as it spans the borough borders. However, as the majority of the land lies within Merton, that will be the key determinant of the application.
Whilst the planning committee will decide whether or not the application is passed or rejected there are a number of outcomes possible thereafter. If the application is passed what is known as the “call in” procedure for major projects will be activated. This procedure allows for a major application to be reviewed to ensure it complies with regional and national policies and objectives. In London such an application can be “called in” initially by the Mayor of London / GLA and can also be called in by the Secretary of State with responsibility for planning. In this instance the application could be called in by both. I have met with the GLA and written to the Secretary of State to request this happens.
Many of you will also be aware that the land was subject to a covenant when it was sold by the London Borough of Merton in 1993/94. This covenant applies irrespective of any planning decision. Therefore, if the application was passed by the Planning Committee, both the Council and the AELTC would need to show the covenant was being enforced. The covenant, in simple terms, states that any benefit from the land is for the residents of Merton and that any building on the land is for recreational purposes only.
If the application were to be rejected by one committee and approved by the other it is my understanding that the decision by Merton would be considered as carrying the most authority as the major part of the land is within Merton.
Finally, the outcome many of us hope for is that this application is rejected by the Planning Committees. The AELTC will then have two courses of action available to them. The first is to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol which could overturn the local decision. However, I would hope that a rejection of this application would create the chance for a new start between the AELTC and local residents. Overwhelmingly we are proud to have the world’s greatest tennis tournament in our community and want it to remain so. I am convinced that with negotiation and compromise a solution which is acceptable to both the local residents and the Club can be found. Previously I have brought the two sides together and I will do so again for the benefit of our local community.
I know that Wimbledon Park has seen an increase in car crime, theft from vehicles, and catalytic converter theft in the last few months. I have spoken to the local police on several occasions and I am pleased that the situation has improved but the thefts have not ceased. The Police have recently made arrests which I hope will see theft decrease further. However, if you are unfortunate enough to experience a crime it is important to report it here: https://www.met.police.uk/area/your-area/met/merton/wimbledon-park/contact-us/top-reported-crimes-in-this-area
If you are planning a street party for King Charles’ Coronation on Saturday 6th May 2023, please find information from Merton Council below on what support is available, the deadline is 31st March: https://www.merton.gov.uk/streets-parking-transport/streets-and-pavements/events/kings-coronation-street-parties?fbclid=IwAR0LDdtqAKMB0_kIJiXxPWgy2MRIEj-D8S0Lc6hV9fBCbldQX2jYjsuKlzc
Finally, as we approach the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement, I believe the deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol signed by our Prime Minister will ensure the continuance of peace in Northern Ireland and will significantly benefit the economic and strategic interests of our country.