English League One football club AFC Wimbledon has received permission to start construction on its new stadium.
The club was last September given the green light to press ahead with plans to build a new 11,000-seat stadium on the site of Plough Lane, the former stadium of the now-defunct Wimbledon FC.
The new development will also provide 602 new houses, retail space and a squash and fitness club.
AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson said: “Everyone in football knows the story of how AFC Wimbledon came into being. A group of fans started with nothing; no ground, no team, no manager, no players and no kit. Now, 15 years later, we’ve taken a giant step towards going home to Merton, in a new stadium and as a Football League club. This is a momentous day for us.
“Everybody who has helped the club to reach this point must be very proud. On a personal note I want to say a particular thank you to Andrew Williams, our project manager, and partner Daniel Norris of law firm Hogan Lovells, who did all the hard work in the background. I and the club are massively indebted to them.”
AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Eardley said: “A lot of my early football memories are connected to Plough Lane and it is exciting news to hear that the club will finally be able to start work on building a new stadium back there. As a trainee, I remember having to paint the physio’s room at Plough Lane, training in the car park from the age of 11, and signing my first professional contract on the pitch. To lead the team out back at our spiritual home would be a huge privilege.”
Leader of Merton Council, councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “After a long journey, this is a proud moment and a historic moment for Merton. Our experienced planning officers have spent a great deal of time and effort to ensure this exciting development will benefit both the greatly loved club AFC Wimbledon, as well as Merton and the many families and fans who live here.
“It has been a pleasure working with the club since we granted the planning permission in 2015. I look forward to seeing the stadium and housing become a reality over the coming months and can’t wait to see the first game. Welcome home AFC Wimbledon.”
Plough Lane was the home of Wimbledon until 1991. The club then played at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park ground until 2003 before it rebranded itself as MK Dons and relocated to Milton Keynes. Wimbledon fans unhappy with the rebrand formed AFC Wimbledon and the club has since worked its way up the football ladder.