Today: 21-04-2024

Setback for Wimbledon: Council Rejects Expansion Proposal, Dealing a Blow to Plans

LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) — The hopes for an extensive transformation of Wimbledon faced a setback as the London Borough of Wandsworth declined planning permission on Tuesday. The All England Tennis Club, the prestigious host of Wimbledon, expressed disappointment following the decision, which rejected plans for a substantial expansion that included the addition of 39 new grass courts, featuring an 8,000-seater showcourt on the adjacent Wimbledon Park.

While the London Borough of Merton had initially approved the ambitious project, the refusal from Wandsworth's planning committee has put a pause on the expansive vision. The decision is set to undergo a review by the Mayor of London's office, adding another layer of complexity to the situation.

Sally Bolton, Chief Executive of the All England Club, conveyed the club's disappointment in a statement, emphasizing the potential positive impact of the proposed expansion. "Naturally, we are disappointed by the London Borough of Wandsworth's decision. Our proposals will deliver one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since 2012, alongside substantial benefits for the local community."

The scope of the AELTC's plans falls partially under Wandsworth's jurisdiction, requiring approval from both Wandsworth and Merton for the project to proceed. Wandsworth's planning officers had previously recommended opposition to the development, citing concerns that it would "cause substantial harm to the openness of metropolitan open land."

Confirmation of the decision came through a post from the London Borough of Wandsworth on social media, stating, "Wandsworth's planning committee votes to refuse Wimbledon tennis expansion plans." The decision faced resistance not only from officials but also from local residents and environmental groups, with a petition garnering 14,000 signatures to halt the plans, which involved the removal of 300 trees. The All England Club, however, countered by asserting their commitment to planting over 1,000 new trees.

A notable gathering of protesters assembled outside Wandsworth Town Hall on Tuesday, underscoring the significance of the decision. The All England Club's motivation for the expansion stems, in part, from the logistical challenge of hosting the Wimbledon qualifying competition several kilometers away from its main facilities.

In 2018, the AELTC's bid of 65 million pounds ($81 million) for Wimbledon Park Golf Club was accepted by its members. The club contends that its expansion plans would not only enhance its facilities but also contribute to the public domain. "We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project offers significant social, economic, and environmental improvements, including turning 23 acres of previously private land into a new public park, alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbors in Wandsworth, Merton, and across London," Bolton stated.

"With the recent divergence in the council's decision, wherein the London Borough of Merton granted approval to our application last month, the fate of our planning aspirations now hangs in the balance, awaiting deliberation by the Mayor of London's office."

Stephen Hammond, the lawmaker representing the Wimbledon constituency, expressed satisfaction with Wandsworth's rejection of the plans. In remarks to the Daily Mail, Hammond stated, "I think this application is too big and very difficult to justify. It is not clear that you need the 39 courts, it is not clear that they need to build the size of show court they are talking about, and it is not clear that they have thought about the building in the public park."

The complexities surrounding the expansion proposal have sparked varying opinions, and Hammond's perspective adds to the ongoing debate. The uncertainty surrounding the project's future persists, awaiting further review and decision-making at the mayoral level.

($1 = 0.8025 pounds)

Reporting by Martyn Herman

Editing by Toby Davis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

"With the recent divergence in the council's decision, wherein the London Borough of Merton granted approval to our application last month, the fate of our planning aspirations now hangs in the balance, awaiting deliberation by the Mayor of London's office."

Stephen Hammond, the lawmaker representing the Wimbledon constituency, expressed satisfaction with Wandsworth's rejection of the plans. In remarks to the Daily Mail, Hammond stated, "I think this application is too big and very difficult to justify. It is not clear that you need the 39 courts, it is not clear that they need to build the size of show court they are talking about, and it is not clear that they have thought about the building in the public park."

The complexities surrounding the expansion proposal have sparked varying opinions, and Hammond's perspective adds to the ongoing debate. The uncertainty surrounding the project's future persists, awaiting further review and decision-making at the mayoral level.

($1 = 0.8025 pounds)

Reporting by Martyn Herman

Editing by Toby Davis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.