EXCLUSIVE: Wimbledon at war as rival MPs team up to block plans to build 39 new courts – including a large stadium – on the golf course… with D-day ahead of £100m All England Club expansion next month
- The All England Club asks permission to build 39 new grass pitches
- Unusual cross-party objection to the two local MPs’ £100m settlement
- Decisive hearings on local authority planning scheduled for late September
Wimbledon’s plan for a historic £100m expansion will become doomsday next month as local opposition grows stronger.
The local authorities’ final hearings are scheduled for an estimated date in late September to determine whether 39 new courts, including a large stadium, can be built on the adjacent golf course site.
That will come in the wake of an unusual cross-party objection to the plan by the two local MPs whose constituencies span the project – Wimbledon Conservative Stephen Hammond and Labor’s Fleur Anderson in Putney.
The All England Club seeks permission to build 39 new grass pitches, including an 8,000-seat ‘Parkland’ stadium with a retractable roof
The pair have set aside political differences to speak out against the All England Club scheme in a joint statement. Together, they have called on the Merton and Wandsworth municipalities to hold planning meetings solely devoted to discussing the project.
“We request that when the Merton and Wandsworth Councils consider the application, they convene a special full planning committee to discuss this matter alone, and we urge both councils to reject the proposal,” it read.
This strong local opposition to the project is just the latest challenge for the All England Club, with Wimbledon chiefs just getting through a championship hit by the loss of ranking points (by excluding Russian and Belarus players) and logistics issues.
Ahead of this year’s tournament, the original planning application was modified – although not enough to satisfy vociferous opponents, a coalition of MPs, councilors and neighborhood associations.
Wimbledon’s plan for historic £100m expansion is set to settle next month amid strong local opposition
The construction of an 8,000-seat 28-metre stadium – which would become the third largest on the site after Center Court and Court No. 1 – on the designated Metropolitan Open Land has been particularly controversial. Local residents appreciate the existing world-class sporting event in our region, but there is strong local resistance to these plans.
“The size and mass of the new show court stadium is of an inappropriate scale to build on Metropolitan Open Land.”
The statement has annoyed the All England Club by describing a proposed new 23-acre public park on the golf course as ‘a small part of the development which offers no protection whatsoever against future development’.
Insiders at SW19 have pointed out that the ground is currently only available to members of the golf club, who are expected to move completely by the end of this year.
Most courses will be built in 2026-27 with a view to hosting the qualifiers in 2028
A statement from the All England Club read: ‘The Wimbledon Park project proposals aim to achieve two core goals: to keep the Championships at the pinnacle of sport and to provide significant public benefit to our local community all year round.
Central to these proposals is the opening up of previously private land for the enjoyment of thousands of local residents in Merton and Wandsworth.
“The benefits include the creation of a new 9.4 hectare public park, a new promenade around Lake Wimbledon Park and community use of the proposed new courts and facilities throughout the year.”
The latter claim is also proving controversial, although it is more than originally planned. The updated plans will allow seven grass pitches to be used by the public in the period between the end of the tournament and its closure in early September, probably about seven weeks.
Wimbledon was stripped of ranking points after a ban on Russian players like Daniil Medvedev (above)
Locals are also denied access to the huge indoor center that has just been completed, although there may be some additional funding for other tennis facilities in the area. The Wimbledon Union of Residents Associations has described planned access to the courts as ‘negligible’. Merton and Wandsworth’s planning committees, both overseen by Labour, will decide.
The upcoming meeting may not even be the end of the matter as there is also a chance that the plans will be referred to the London Mayor’s office or to the Secretary of State’s level.
Wimbledon, which suffered from pandemic restrictions in 2021, is also facing a protracted bout with other tennis authorities over the ranking points issue.
The settlement with the ATP Tour for men is to be renegotiated at the end of this year, with fears that the matter will resurface in 2023 if there is no peace settlement in Ukraine.