English Championship football club Millwall has secured its future at The Den after a deal was reached to terminate a conditional land sale agreement for an area surrounding its stadium.
Millwall has played at its current home in Bermondsey, London since 1993, but in recent years has been faced with the prospect of potentially moving as far afield as Kent. This was due to an agreement concluded in December 2013 between Lewisham Council and development company Renewal for the sale of the freeholds of the land adjoining Millwall’s stadium.
The agreement in effect inhibited Millwall from proceeding with its plans for the development of the land it leases. However, after an 18-month period of what it described as “intensive collaboration” between itself, Millwall and Renewal, the Council has said the latter has agreed a new approach to enable their sites to go forward for housing and other development.
This process has been guided by Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, after his predecessor, Steve Bullock, had been forced to halt the compulsory purchase order in January 2017 amid mounting public pressure.
The previous plan had included a potential compulsory purchase order to develop part of a site currently leased by Millwall. This has now been terminated, with plans which involve building on leasehold land being revised. The Council said this paves the way for an increase in “much needed” social housing for Lewisham residents and retains the Millwall stadium.
Egan added: “I am delighted that we have all agreed a way forward to allow much needed development on this site and would like to thank Millwall Football Club and Renewal for their positive approach throughout the process.
“The project will bring new housing, including social housing, jobs and a new train station to an area currently under resourced. The regeneration of the area is an exciting opportunity for Lewisham. Our priority is that it must deliver more social homes, a new train station and have community support.”
Millwall moved into its current 20,000-seat stadium, famous for its atmosphere, after playing at a nearby venue since 1910. In a statement, Millwall said it “warmly welcomed” the announcement by Lewisham Council.
The club added: “Millwall equally welcomes the announcement by Lewisham Council that the leases owned by the football club and its community scheme will be varied to allow Millwall to prepare development plans for the land around The Den.”
The Association of Millwall Supporters has played a major role in the battle to secure The Den’s long-term future. It said in a statement reported by The Guardian newspaper: “This is an incredible victory not only for all Millwall fans but also for the local community too. In an era where money rules football, this a victory for the ordinary fan.
“The CPOs would have forced the club to relocate away from the area entirely, an event that would have ripped the Millwall heartbeat away from the Bermondsey area. But instead the fans fought back with fantastic support from our friends in the media, within the Lewisham council chamber, trade unions and across the political divide.
“Millwall FC now has a real opportunity to secure its future financial position, we call upon the club not to let this chance slide. We would also like to thank the new Mayor, Damien Egan, for his efforts in bringing this conflict to a close.”
Image: Millwall FC