A huge proposal to transform the former Wimbledon Park Golf Club could face a big setback after planning officers stepped in
Proposals to build 39 new tennis courts and an 8,000-seater show court on the site of the former Wimbledon Park Golf Club have been recommended for refusal by planning chiefs.
Officers at Wandsworth Council say the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s planning application would cause “substantial harm” and “constitute inappropriate development”.
Councillors will decide at a borough planning applications meeting on November 21, but Wimbledon chiefs are now bracing themselves for a setback after officers argued against the scheme, which would allow qualifying for the huge tennis tournament to be staged on site.
Wimbledon Park GC closed at the end of last year after members voted to sell the remaining lease term on the 120-year-old layout to the All England Club for £65 million back in 2018.
Some 82 per cent of members were in favour of offloading the 30-acre site, with each reportedly collecting a windfall of £85,000. Among the club’s famous members were said to include Piers Morgan and Ant & Dec.
It brought to an end a long-running desire for the All England Club to expand the facilities for their world-renowned tennis championship onto the golf club’s land. They had owned the freehold of the club since the early 1990s – with the lease set to expire in 2041.
Qualifying for Wimbledon is currently held at the Bank of England Sports Ground, in Roehampton, some three and a half miles away.
But it now appears the proposed expansion could hit some bumps. While Merton Council, which is responsible for the large majority of the land, voted six to four in favour of the scheme last month, Wandsworth planners have recommended refusal.
Among the objectors is Putney MP Fleur Anderson, who wrote the proposals were an “over-development which will cause disproportionate environmental damage and disruption to residents across Wandsworth and Merton”.
Wimbledon Park development: ‘The proposed development would cause substantial harm’
Supporting the plans, The Lawn Tennis Association said the proposals would allow the club to “take the steps necessary to safeguard the future of The Championships, by moving the Qualifying event on-site and improving the player and practice facilities, to ensure they keep pace with the standards expected from a Grand Slam tournament.”
In a 120-page document outlining the proposals and their decision, planners noted there were restrictive covenants which required the owners to use the golf course land “only for leisure and recreation or as an open space and restrict the erection of buildings, other than those ancillary to recreational or open space uses and which building, or buildings will not impair the appreciation of the general public of the extent or openness of the land transferred.”
Officers did not take a view on whether the proposed development would, or would not, be in breach of those restrictive covenants.
They did, however, argue the development as a whole would “constitute the substantial encroachment of built form into MOL (Metropolitan Open Land), substantially increasing the level of intervention into the landscape over what is currently the case on the site and increasing the level of activity, this would be very significant over the course of the Qualifying Events and the Championships.
“It is therefore considered that the proposed development would cause substantial harm to and loss of visual and spatial openness of the MOL, including being contrary to the purposes of including land within MOL. The proposal therefore constitutes inappropriate development on MOL, both by reasons of impact on openness and in principle.”
The BBC reported the All England Club as responding: “We are surprised that the planning officers at the London Borough of Wandsworth have recommended refusal of the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project, particularly after the London Borough of Merton resolved to approve the application following extensive analysis and debate both in their officers’ report and at the Planning Committee.
“We regret that Wandsworth’s officers have taken a different view but it is for Councillors on the Planning Applications Committee to make their own considered decision at the meeting on 21 November.
“We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park project will deliver substantial social, economic and environmental benefits, including 23 acres of newly accessible green space, alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Meron and across London.”
Now have your say
What do you think? Did you play at Wimbledon Park Golf Club? What do you make of the All England Club’s plans and the council officer recommendations? Let me know on X.
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