Local coalition drums up support in opposition to proposed Wimbledon Park development

Wimbledon aerial shot general overview

The All England Lawn Tennis Club’s plans to expand into the Wimbledon Park area, currently occupied by a golf course, have met with opposition on ostensibly on environmental grounds.

Please note: This article had been amended to include responses issued by the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

A new petition opposed to the expansion has gathered more than 5,000 signatures so far with the plans already slammed by prominent figures.

The AELTC’s stance on the project is thus: ““The Wimbledon Park Project will maintain The Championships at the pinnacle of the sport. This means delivering world-class facilities as well as setting the highest possible standards for the environmental, social, economic, and community benefits we will unlock. Throughout the duration of the process, we have been committed to active and open engagement with the community, local stakeholders and industry experts. We are grateful for the support received from the London Wildlife Trust, Historic England and The Gardens Trust, among many other organisations, who have endorsed the project and its contribution to the community and local environment, but we remain in close contact with all parties as our planning application approaches a decision later this year.”

Conservative MP for Wimbledon, Stephen Hammond, and Labour MP for neighbouring Putney Fleur Anderson, had previously issued an unprecedented joint statement in opposition to the plans.

The latest ‘call to action’ against the plans has been launched by a coalition of grassroots organisations.

The ‘Save Wimbledon Park’ campaign has attracted the backing of 12 local residents’ associations, four local heritage and environmental organisations and three national bodies.

A statement issued by the group read: “In Capability Brown’s Grade II* historic and highly protected Metropolitan Open Land they plan an 8,000-seat stadium, 38 courts, 10 other buildings and 9kms of roads and paths.

“They propose a new AELTC private park to which the public may be admitted but which would contain a 30,000 sqft maintenance building.”

The All England Lawn Tennis Club have countered these arguments and revealed a plan to minimise the impact fo the maintenance building.

“The park will be one of the largest areas of private land to be opened for public use in London, having been inaccessible to the public for over 100 years. The park will only closed to public use for a short period during event build and during periods for safety reasons, it will be open during these events as it is one of the new ways of entering The Championships.

“Even during the Qualifying and Championships closure period we will still maintain a route through the AELTC public park for the public to use. It will also be open to the public to use throughout the remainder of the year.

“We are minimising the impact of the maintenance building by putting it mainly underground – only a fraction will be visible and it will be covered by a green roof that blends into the natural landscape.”

Save Wimbledon Park remain opposed saying: “There would be an unacceptable environmental impact. The golf course will be excavated, infilled, and levelled over seven years, threatening protected priority habitats. Claims for biodiversity net gains have been challenged in expert analysis. Three hundred mature trees will be felled.

“An estimated 500+ younger trees will be uprooted. Established trees are vastly superior to new saplings for carbon storage, heritage and biodiversity. You cannot replace a 150-year-old tree without waiting 150 years.”

The counter-claim made by the All England Club is that their planned development would open up the park space to the public where previously it had been closed off.

“Central to our proposals is the creation of a new 9.4-hectare park that will open to the public previously private land, as well as a new boardwalk around Wimbledon Park lake,” a statement from AELTC read.

“We believe these benefits, alongside others such as an increase in biodiversity of the site and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come.”

The petitioners have argued that the scale of the development could not be undertaken without considerable disruption to the lives of local residents and impact on the environment.

The Friends of Wimbledon Park (FOWP), say the intention to build a walkway round the lake is already required by an existing covenant and has called on the club to relinquish control over the lake’s access.

“We specifically object to the overdevelopment of heritage open space and the surviving views across it, which are essentially destroyed by the show court, too many grass courts, too many paths, too much intensive management and related activities. So, we lose the open grassland.

“Keeping a scatter of veteran trees does not retain the parkland character. Parks are trees (not just veteran trees) set in a grassland or heathland matrix (just as at Richmond Park). We are essentially losing that matrix across most of the site.”

AELTC have also put forward their own views here clarifying that the park does not currently feature any grassland but the development plans include space for the development of grassland.

“There is no open grassland currently on the site, the “grassland” is an intensively managed ecologically sterile amenity golf course,” AELTC have put forward

“We are creating open grassland – large swathes of long grass with bespoke native wildflower mix, and several hectares of acid grassland (a priority habitat) to be sensitively managed and monitored for biodiversity.”

The opposing campaigns and Wimbledon hold opposing views on Brown’s Lake as well.

FOWP added: “There’s also a significant impact on Capability Brown’s Lake, with much loss of open water. The edge of the proposed reedbed will become the visual edge of the open water of the lake. As the lake is set in a broad shallow valley and reeds grow 2m-4m high, there is little opportunity for views over the reeds to the grassland or water beyond. So, the designed views are replaced by much more restricted views.”

The AELTC have reached out to counter this argument.

“We are restoring key features of Brown’s Lake – restoring the southern lake tip, and the outline of the lake in the north to Brown’s design, daylighting the two historic brooks that feed the lake and creating new stream habitats,” they say.

“Our proposals also increase the size of the lake by restoring the historic lake tip and opening up the entrances to the daylighted streams. The desilting means that the volume of water in the lake will be greatly increased, and the depth and health of water in the lake will be vastly improved.

The Golf club sold the land to the All England Club in 2018 but plans to develop it have been hit by delays brought on by opposition to the expansion. EDIT: In response to this article the All England club refutes the claim that planning permission has been delayed by opposition.

AELTC informed us: “Our planning application has – quite rightly – been through meticulous preparation and examination during the planning process.

“Local authorities control the timeframe for decision-making on applications, and this timing is dependent on a number of factors, including responses from external bodies, other applications in the queue to be determined, as well as general administrative matters, such as the local elections in May earlier this year. It is in no way linked to either support or opposition expressed by non-statutory consultees.”

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