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    14 November 2023

    Planning setback hampers proposed expansion plans for Wimbledon’s All England Club

    The All England Club’s Ambitious Tennis Court Plan Hits a Snag

    In an unexpected twist, the proposal put forth by the prestigious All England Club to construct 39 new tennis courts, including a magnificent 8,000-seater show court, has suffered a setback.

    The officers at Wandsworth Council have deemed the development in Wimbledon Park as “inappropriate” and likely to cause “substantial harm” to the land. Therefore, they have recommended that the planning permission be refused.

    Interestingly enough, Merton Council had previously voted in favor of this ambitious project last month. While their officers acknowledged that it may result in some physical harm to Metropolitan Open Land, they concluded that there were compelling “very special circumstances” which would outweigh any harm caused by bringing substantial public benefits.

    However, Wandsworth’s officers hold a different view. They maintain that no extraordinary circumstances exist which can justify causing such harm. Their report categorically states that if this proposed development goes ahead as planned it will lead to a net loss of open space and green infrastructure without any replacement provisions offered.

    A crucial vote on this matter is scheduled for next Tuesday at the planning committee meeting where councillors will make their decision known. Following this decision-making process, Sadiq Khan – London’s Mayor – will have two weeks’ time to deliver his verdict.

    Promising Changes and Local Opposition

    If approved, these additional courts would enable Wimbledon qualifying matches to be held on-site just like its counterparts in other Grand Slam tournaments.

    To offset concerns raised by local opposition groups and ensure community engagement with this project remains intact, the All England Club has made several promises. Notably, they have pledged to create a magnificent 23-acre public park designed in the spirit of Capability Brown, the renowned landscape architect. Furthermore, at least seven grass courts would be made accessible to the local community during the summer weeks following Wimbledon.

    However, it is important to mention that strong opposition from various quarters has been voiced against this proposal. Members of “Save Wimbledon Park” organization staged a protest outside Merton Council’s chamber when they met for voting on this issue. These opponents emphasize significant environmental concerns and highlight potential loss of trees and open spaces as major reasons for their objection.

    A petition garnering support from over 14,000 individuals demonstrates the extent of opposition towards this project. Even local Members of Parliament – Conservative Stephen Hammond and Labour’s Fleur Anderson – stand united in their opposition.

    All England Club’s Response

    The All England Club expressed surprise at Wandsworth Council planning officers’ recommendation to refuse permission for its ambitious Wimbledon Park Project. They noted that London Borough of Merton had already resolved to approve the application after a thorough analysis and extensive debate both within their officers’ report and at the Planning Committee meeting.

    In response to Wandsworth’s differing viewpoint, they stated that ultimately it will be up to Councillors on the Planning Applications Committee to make an independent decision during next week’s meeting on November 21st.

    In concluding their statement, representatives from The All England Club firmly believe that if approved, their Wimbledon Park Project will yield substantial social, economic, and environmental benefits. These include creating 23 acres of newly accessible green space, generating hundreds of jobs while providing tens of millions of pounds in economic gains for neighboring areas such as Wandsworth, Merton, and beyond across London.

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