The fate of the Wimbledon All England Club’s ambitious plans to expand its tennis operations on to a neighbouring golf course is now officially in the hands of City Hall after Sadiq Khan’s deputy for planning, Jules Pipe, formally deployed mayoral powers to take over the application process.
The project’s progress became stalled in November when Wandsworth Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the small northern part of it that falls into the borough, following neighbouring Merton’s majority approval of the much larger section on its side of the border the previous month.
The golf course is owned by the All England Club – the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, to give it its full name – which wants to build an additional, 8,000-seat tennis stadium there to strengthen its annual Grand Slam tournament, along with 38 additional courts for the “Wimbledon fortnight” qualifying event and other tournaments. The development would also create a new 23-acre public park.
There has been prominent local opposition to the proposals, which would affect Grade II* listed landscape designated Metropolitan Open Land in Sadiq Khan’s London Plan, meaning it can only be altered under exceptional circumstances.
Wandsworth’s planning officers advised that the benefits to local people – more accessibility, greater biodiversity, more sports facilities and more jobs and training facilities – meant those criteria had been met, but councillors rejected their recommendations, backed by council leader Simon Hogg, who said, “We could not support the loss of green open space at Wimbledon Park and the loss of mature trees that was at the heart of this application”.
Merton’s officers, too, emphasised “substantial public benefits”, including a boost to the economy, and the architectural merits of the new Parkland show court. They also said the plans would protect rather than damage the historic landscape as a whole, which Historic England considers to be “at risk”.
City Hall, which would have rubber-stamped or blocked the two boroughs’ decisions in any case as the proposals are, as a spokesperson for the Mayor put it, “a major planning application of London-wide significance”, will now determine the fate of the scheme in its entirety, with the relevant planning powers delegated to Pipe. A full planning hearing will be held at a later date.
On London‘s recent in-depth coverage of the All England Club’s plans is HERE. Images: AELTC plans (top) and Merton Council planning officers’ report. Follow On London on X/Twitter. Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE.