A fierce dispute over development plans between the All England Lawn Tennis Club and its nearby residents will resume on Monday as the mayor of London’s office decides whether or not to permit Wimbledon to extend onto a park with Grade II* listing.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), which has hosted the tournament since 1877, has requested authorization to construct a stadium with a capacity of 8,000 and an additional 38 tennis courts on Wimbledon Park. This park was designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century and holds a special designation as “metropolitan open land”, providing protection for its unique landscape.
The proposal to expand the tennis championship grounds from 17 hectares (42 acres) to 46 hectares has been authorized by Merton council, but was declined by Wandsworth council, which is located next to it. Since Wimbledon Park falls under the jurisdiction of both boroughs, approval from both councils was necessary for the proposal to proceed.
Merton has brought the decision to the attention of the Greater London Authority, and it will be determined by the deputy mayor of London, Jules Pipe, on Monday. Pipe has the option to reject the request or initiate a comprehensive planning evaluation, which is not expected to begin until after the general election. Sources suggest that a thorough review is the most probable result.
The ultimate authority rests with the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, however he abstained from making a decision due to his public endorsement of the expansion in 2021.
Almost 300 trees would be removed to allow the AELTC’s building plans, which some locals described as “corporate ecocide”. The club said most of the trees were “poor quality” and said it would plant 1,500 new trees.
Over 16,000 individuals have signed a petition in an effort to “preserve Wimbledon Park,” while 2,000 letters of protest have been submitted to the councils. Both the Conservative MP, Stephen Hammond, and the Labour MP, Fleur Anderson, have united to oppose the plans of the All EnglandAELTC.
Anderson, the Member of Parliament representing Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, stated: “I am against these proposals as they involve significant construction on land that is protected to the highest standard. This could potentially jeopardize all of our green areas in London. Additionally, the development only includes a small portion designated as a public park and the All England Lawn Tennis Club has declined to safeguard it from potential future development.”
I encourage all residents of London who are worried about our ability to use green areas and breathe clean air to voice their disapproval to City Hall regarding the proposal to develop Wimbledon Park for use in the tennis tournament.
Iain Simpson, the leader of the Save Wimbledon Park organization, stated that their stance on AELTC’s proposed plans remains unchanged since the group was formed in the summer of 2021. Simpson questions why the AELTC refuses to have a discussion with them and disclose the supposed benefits to the community. Both Members of Parliament have also expressed concerns about the excessive size of the development and its potential harm to the environment.
The AELTC’s spokesperson stated that their proposals provide substantial improvements in society, economy, and the environment. This includes the creation of a new public park on 23 acres of previously private land, as well as the generation of hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for the surrounding areas of Wandsworth, Merton, and London.