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AELTC Wimbledon Park Developments

WIMBLEDON PARK DEVELOPMENTS – YOUR RESPONSE

Wimbledon Park developments – your response

We asked you to write in with your views about the AELTC’s plans for Wimbledon Park. Here’s what you told us…

Tony Michael 
From the articles in the last edition of Time & Leisure by Ian Hewitt and Jeremy Hudson, there are major question marks around what should happen to this golf club land in Wimbledon Park. The All England wants to build an 8000 seat Stadium, and many smaller buildings, on this open and protected parkland.
The Wimbledon Society and many others believe that this open parkland with its heritage status should not be built on. Indeed the Council’s Local Planning Policies say this very clearly. This is too important a matter for one side to ‘win’ and the other to ‘lose’.
Should we not learn from similar situations, where such protected open spaces are adapted for major national and international events with temporary facilities? Instead of a permanent and expensive (and highly visually intrusive) stadium, why not erect temporary stands each year as is done at major golf tournament such as Wentworth, Augusta? Or the summer open air operas in Verona and Rome where each has more than 20,000 temporary seats?
Any facilities for the players and others could be handled by robust tents and marquees, with the Chelsea Flower Show as but one example.
All permanent maintenance buildings should remain located west of Church Road. Such temporary structures would be in place for only a few weeks in the summer, and for more than ten months in the year the site would revert to be open, unbuilt and green. 
 
It would be far cheaper than constructing permanent buildings. And being ’new every year’, as demands change the facilities would be easily adaptable, which permanent buildings are not. And the substantial extra costs that the All England would need to pay to set aside the restrictive legal covenants on development could be minimised. And the admirable aim of the All England to have “Tennis in an English garden” (as compared to the highly urbanised and concreted tennis complexes of Paris, New York and Melbourne) can be realise.
Of course other elements need to be rethought too – the Church Road closure, excessive tree and ground disturbance, too many new courts, the Queue and so on – but would not this ’tented village and temporary stands’ approach be the basis for both sides to ‘win’?

Linda Murgatroyd

At this time of environmental crisis the idea that a beautiful long-established site with mature trees and wildlife should be taken over in the way proposed by the AELTC seems outrageous. We need more nature and nature needs less human interference. In any case, climate change will probably mean that we don’t have lawns in 20 years time, and we certainly should not be expanding international sporting events which encourage  energy-guzzling travel, so it’s probably a bad investment even for the Club.Although I have enjoyed the tennis championships all my life, my feelings about them have been changing recently. These these new proposals follow other overdevelopment in recent years. Rather than adding to the local disruption, AELTC’s ownership of the Golf Club site should mean that this is for the tennis queue and car parking instead of Wimbledon Park.  I hope they will also retain the existing trees and minimise disruption to wildlife on the site. Wimbledon Park is already over-used and car parking puts large areas of the Great Field out of use for many weeks at the height of the summer, just when quiet open spaces are most needed by local people.

Alice Roberts

The golf course is part of Wimbledon Park, is protected Metropolitan Open Land and is a historic Grade II* listed Capability Brown landscape.

park. The golf course is part of the larger Wimbledon Park. It was open to Merton residents to play at a reasonable cost. If developed as an exclusive tennis complex, it will be lost forever from the park. While we appreciate that facilities like golf courses, tennis courts, bowling greens etc., are not used by all park users, nonetheless they are a common and important part of London’s parks. If they are to be re-allocated for a different purpose, it should be to serve as a park – or a facility one would expect to find in a park, to be used by the public at reasonable cost.

The AELTC says it will be creating a new ‘permissive park’, opening part of the golf course to the public for part of the year, a concession which could be withdrawn at any time. But this still means the rest of the site will be permanently closed to the public, used only for a few days (18/365, 5%) each year for the tournament. Instead, the AELTC, as owners, should facilitate permanent public access to the entire space all year round, or transfer it to an organisation which intends to facilitate that.

Metropolitan Open Land. This is a planning designation intended to ensure there is land within London which remains permanently open. It has the same status as Green Belt. Building anything on ‘MOL’, especially a stadium and a large maintenance building, is not permitted.

A historic landscape. While AELTC has said Historic England supports the development, on the basis it will bring investment to a Grade II* listed park which is on the at-risk register, we say the proposed development would turn most of it into a private tennis complex with considerable artificial surfacing and hardstanding, and destroy what remains of the historic landscape – a view echoed (as we understand it) by the Capability Brown Society and SAVE (Save Britain’s Heritage). So not all experts are in agreement here. We do not believe the investment would restore the park, rather it would destroy much of what the Grade II* listing is based on (in fact we understand there has been some debate that the proposals might well cause the park to lose its Grade II* status).

London has only half the green space it needs for a population its size. We face health, climate and nature crises all at the same time. The park should remain a park, without substantial artificial and hard surfacing, without buildings, and with year-round public access. The AELTC can use alternative sites for qualifying rounds, practice courts and even matches, while also supporting other grounds with investment.

We look forward to seeing an alternative vision for the Wimbledon Park golf course which delivers public amenity, wildlife habitat and natural drainage for years to come.

 

Angela Reddin
I am against the AELTC proposals in the form they now stand.    Whilst i am in agreement that another show court would be of benefit to the tennis championships, too much of the park would be removed/incorporated in their ambitious project.

It needs to be scaled down considerably.  Public access should not be ‘permissable’ but a given.   The facilities also should be open to the residents to be able to use the parkland as it was intended.   This is of benefit only to AELTC, is in contravention of the Covenants set in place to protect the park and goes against public opinion.   The fornightly flocking yearly to the championships is known and liked by Southfields residents but AELTC do not seem to consider themselves part of the community.    This development would be a detriment to the community and London Parks.

Simon Wright

I object strongly to AELTCs plans to develop Wimbledon Park for two main reasons – the existence of covenants that protect the land from development and the GLAs position in opposing the development. There has been a series of public meetings, including two hosted by local MPs Fleur Anderson (Putney) and Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon). At these meetings and elsewhere the subject that has received the most attention is the discovery of restrictive covenants covering the former golf course on which AELTC hope to build. The covenants date back to 1993, when Merton Council sold the land to AELTC. The then leader of Merton Council said at the time: “The golf course will be retained as open space. The whole stretch has been designated Metropolitan Open Land. We have declared it a conservation area and placed strong covenants on the sale.” The Chairman of AELTC responded at the time “We completely understand and support everyone’s determination to keep the land open and we have purchased the land on that basis.” At a meeting of Merton Council held on February 2nd the minority Liberal Democrat group put forward a motion that would require the Council to “enforce” its covenants. This motion was defeated, but a second motion put forward by the majority Labour group was passed. This second motion merely required the Council to “respect” the covenants. The Council meeting received press coverage from The Times, The Guardian and the Evening Standard.

In addition the Greater London Assembly (GLA) has issued an initial report on AELTC’s application. They conclude that AELTC have not justified their claim that “Very Special Circumstances” exist to authorise any planning approval, nor, even if they do exist, would those claimed outweigh the harm which the development would cause. A paper on this subject has now been written by local Residents Associations which has been submitted to both Wandsworth and Merton Planning Committees, who are obliged to consider the views of the GLA. You can read the paper here .

I call on Merton Council to serve the interests of local residents by enforcing the covenants that are in place and heeding the report issued by the GLA

Martin Sumpton

I remain a member of Wimbledon Park Golf Club until its bitter end on 31st December 2022. I am also a member of The Friends of Wimbledon Park, a group which has been formed on behalf of local residents to protect the Heritage Park from further neglect and from development – such as that imposed by the planning application by AELTC. Their proposals will destroy forever the landscape which is the remnant of Capability Brown’s masterpiece. Their plans will not maintain the landscape and will irreparably harm the natural habitat afforded by it ; their proposals will prevent public access to the lakeshore as required by the Deed of Covenant imposed prior to the sale of the Golf Club (lease) in 1993. Instead the AELTC intends to develop the golf course for commercial gain by holding qualifying events prior to its Championships – the public will be excluded for the rest of the year. Merton BC sold the land at a very cheap price because development was prohibited by the terms of the Deed of Covenant. Being subject to Planning Law and Merton BC’s policy the Park should be protected for the benefit of future generations ; remember also that Wimbledon Park is a site of National and Historic importance and Merton BC acts as a Trustee on behalf of the public and local residents. It is therefore crucial for Merton BC to be prepared to enforce the terms of the Deed of Covenant binding upon AELTC on behalf of the public and national interest and I would implore them to reject the AELTC’s plans totally. There is another way. There can be a compromise which enables AELTC to have tennis courts (no stadium) and with minimal disturbance to Wimbledon Park‘s character. It remains to be seen whether the AELTC and Merton BC have the courage to act in accordance with the promises made when entering into the Deed of Covenant since the reasons put forward to dismiss it are bogus.

Wendy Rose

I live in Southfields and go to Wimbledon Park everyday, sometimes twice a day, to walk our dog.

I have many objections to the AELTCs proposal and I don’t trust them.  They only revealed the massive show court idea after the initial plans have been revealed.  Proper consultation as not taken place; they are currently embarking on a series of feel good open days and suddenly discovering the importance of having contact with the local community; recently launching their newsletter. Despite all the extra land they still want to take over the park for the queue and car parking.  This means that normal park user activity is severely restricted anyway during the championships.
It will take many years for mature years to grow back.  Specialist groups and societies with far more knowledge than me have all come out against the proposal from a wildlife and ecology perspective.

The real point is that there is a covenant on the land, which AELTC freely signed when the bought the land, banning any building on the land. It is also designated Metropolitan Open land.  It beggars belief that this is not upheld by Merton Council.  It was signed by Leader of the Council.   What on earth is the point of having legal covenants if they are completely ignored only a few decades later?  Merton have said they will only consider the covenant once planning permission has been given.  Really?  Why?  It’s this sort of thing that serious erodes public trust in Councils.

Margaret, Wimbledon

My husband and I are absolutely appalled at the above, the AELTC has facilities in Roehampton, and there is no need for this much valued parkland, Grade II listed by Capability Brown, providing so much pleasure to so many, to be developed in this way. Thank you for asking! Love your magazine by the way.

Peter Frost

Notable by its absence from Mr Hewitt’s piece was any mention of the covenants which the AELTC gave recently to the Council when they acquired the land. The proposed development is a flagrant breach of the covenants and should be redrawn to be compliant with those covenants. And Merton Council should make clear that they will enforce the covenants which they had to take from the AELTC because of the local opposition to the original sale of the land. Their continued failure to do so does them no credit at all.

Dr N R Steiner, Chair, Friends of Wimbledon Park

The Friends of Wimbledon Park (FOWP) is a voluntary umbrella organisation that aims to give a voice to local people, community groups and other interested parties, to protect and enhance this well-loved heritage landscape, Heritage Wimbledon Park, for future generations.

We are working through the 101 documents (a lot of work for volunteers) associated with this Wimbledon Park Project application.  We have made 3 objections which are summarised below.

First submission:

Inter alia this proposal should be regarded as resulting in:

  1. inappropriate development in Metropolitan Open Land
  2. inappropriate buildings in Metropolitan Open Land
  3. substantial harm to a Heritage Grade11* registered park
  4. a failure to protect Metropolitan Open Land
  5. the loss of protected open space and a designated nature conservation site
  6. a failure to conserve a designated historic asset
  7. a failure to protect our urban forest and woodland trees
  8. no net gain in biodiversity.

Essentially, and despite previous promises to the contrary, the applicant wants to develop Metropolitan Open Land for corporate profit with the inducement of providing a small linear park with public access, but which can be closed at any time. The land is protected open space and the numerous policies that protect it should be adhered to.

Second submission concerns desilting the lake:

In summary the lake will continue to fill up with sediment very slowly through natural processes.

  1. Desilting is not needed for reasons of water quality nor flood control
  2. A big concern regarding desilting is the effect on biodiversity and the harm it could have on the ecology
  3. Installation of silt traps on Bigden and Rushmere brooks and the AELTC drain will prevent further silting
  4. It is a major undertaking, and a cost benefit analysis is required.

We submit that the scale of these works requires a separate planning application and not be a condition within another planning application. The desilting in this application should be rejected.

Third submission concerns car parking (note that in 2021 500 spaces were allocated in the public park, the application says 660 – this is for the general public but changes to staff by 2030. This being a worst case scenario):

We object to the use of the public park in this way and the increase in spaces in the public park and say that car parking on a Grade II* Heritage Park should be reset to zero. Public car parking on the application site or in the public park would be contrary to London and Local sustainable transport policies, no permission should be granted for public car parking on the Grade II* Heritage Park.