The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), organiser of the Wimbledon Championships, has been handed a boost in its bid to build a new 8,000-seat show court after opposition councillors’ plans to block the development were rejected.
The AELTC submitted the planning application for its Wimbledon Park project back in October. The AELTC wants to build the new Parkland Show Court on land it purchased from Wimbledon Park Golf Club for £65m (€77.5m/$88.4m) in 2018 and it is hoped the court will be ready for play by 2030.
The plans were debated by Merton councillors yesterday (Wednesday). The council is led by Labour, and the Guardian newspaper reports that Liberal Democrat councillors proposed a motion that would see the council enforce covenants that prevent building work from being carried out on the site.
Conservative councillors also supported this, but their Labour counterparts overturned the motion to state that the covenants “need to be respected” rather than enforced, according to the Guardian. The amended motion was passed, with Labour councillors adding that the covenant is a legal issue “separate to the consideration of the AELTC planning application”.
As well as the new 8,000-seat show court, the AELTC’s plans include 38 ground courts. The space will open up 9.4 hectares of parkland for locals, with AELTC stating in October that the area will provide local residents and visitors with access to “high quality green space and parkland”.
The AELTC’s plans for the new show court centre on a tree-like structure and have been conceived to tie in with the surrounding landscape. The court would be located outside of the members’ club and would be open for year-round activities such as smaller tournaments, events and school visits.
The earliest construction start on the north part of the golf course is later this year, with construction on the south part to begin no earlier than 2023. Work on the remodelling of the grounds would then begin in 2024, with a new qualifying venue scheduled for completion by 2026. It is estimated that Wimbledon Park will be open to the public by 2028 before the new show court is completed two years later.
The plans have reportedly drawn more than 1,000 objections but the AELTC sought to counter criticism of the scheme in October by issuing a series of ‘mythbusters’. In response to claims the new show court will be large and domineering in the landscape, the AELTC said that the venue “responds directly to the landscape and the site’s rich heritage” and reflects the “status and profile” of the Championships.