The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC)’s plans to develop a new 8,000-seat show court have been dealt a blow after Wandsworth Council recommended that councillors refuse planning permission.
Last month, the AELTC cleared the first major hurdle for its Wimbledon Park project after it received planning approval from Merton Council. The plans also include proposals for 38 new courts, which would allow Wimbledon to host on-site qualifying events, bringing the tournament in line with the three other grand slams.
With Wimbledon Park also falling inside the Borough of Wandsworth, its planning committee must approve the project, but officers at the council have recommended that the plans be rejected on the grounds that they would cause significant harm to the land.
Planning officers at Merton Council had advised last month that the proposals would result in “physical harm” to Metropolitan Open Land, but concluded “very special circumstances” meant “substantial public benefits would clearly outweigh (the) harm”.
However, the BBC has now reported that officers at Wandsworth Council have concluded that there are no such “very special circumstances” that would outweigh the harm.
A report from the council said: “The proposed development would result in the net loss of open space/green infrastructure, with no replacement provision provided.”
A planning committee meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday. If the plans are approved, the Mayor of London must then formally accept or reject the decisions of both Merton and Wandsworth Councils.
In a statement reported by the Evening Standard, the AELTC said: “We are surprised that planning officers at the London Borough of Wandsworth have recommended refusal of the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project, particularly after the London Borough of Merton resolved to approve the application following extensive analysis and debate both in their officers’ report and at the planning committee.
“We regret that Wandsworth’s officers have taken a different view but it is for councillors on the planning applications committee to make their own considered decision at the meeting on November 21. We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project will deliver substantial social, economic and environmental benefits including 23 acres of newly accessible green space alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Merton and across London.”
The AELTC submitted the planning application for Wimbledon Park back in October 2021, seeking to counter criticism of the scheme by issuing a series of ‘mythbusters’.
In June 2021, the AELTC revealed details of a ‘New Park for London’ concept while also providing an update on its proposed 8,000-seat show court. The update came after the AELTC had earlier outlined plans for the 8,000-seat show court as part of an expansion of the Wimbledon grounds.
The AELTC is planning on building the stadium on land it purchased from Wimbledon Park Golf Club for £65m (€74.5m/$79.9m) in 2018. It had been hoped the court would be ready for play by 2030.
The space will open up 9.4 hectares of parkland for locals, with the AELTC stating 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.