Monday’s news update: A look into the uncomfortable expansion of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Israel has prolonged its attack on the ground in Gaza and has instructed for a crucial hospital in Gaza City to be emptied. It is reported that 14,000 individuals are taking refuge there. You can stay updated on the most recent updates by following our liveblog.

Today, we are going to Wimbledon, where the organizers of the tennis tournament have been engaged in a lengthy struggle to gain ownership of the adjacent park, designed by Capability Brown, in order to expand the tournament with 39 additional courts.

The AELTC’s goal to expand the site of the championships beyond Church Road has taken a step forward with the approval of their plans for the development of Wimbledon Park. The decision was made at a lengthy council planning meeting on Thursday evening, which at times became tense.

Even though the Merton council has approved it, the AELTC must also gain support from the Wandsworth council, which has jurisdiction over a portion of the park, and then the mayor of London. If they succeed, activists advocating for the preservation of the park, in accordance with a 30-year-old legal agreement, are determined to pursue a judicial review.

During this conflict, Ant McPartlin, Declan Donnelly, Piers Morgan, and Lord Gus O’Donnell, a former cabinet secretary, were each given a payment of £85,000. I will clarify the reasoning behind this after discussing the main points.

Five big stories

  1. Hamas has acknowledged that they are currently involved in intense battles with Israeli soldiers in the northern region of Gaza. The Israeli military has urged residents in the besieged area to move to the south for their safety. On Sunday, approximately thirty aid trucks were able to enter Gaza through the southern border.

  2. Matthew Perry | Hollywood stars have hailed the “comedic genius” of Friends star Matthew Perry after the actor’s death at 54. Justin Trudeau and Adele were among public figures to speak fondly of actor best known as Chandler Bing in Friends.

  3. According to a local charity, a 23-year-old Nigerian man attempted suicide in a car park at an Essex hotel after learning that he was going to be moved to the Bibby Stockholm barge.

  4. Local officials have issued a cautionary statement that the housing dilemma in England will likely result in numerous local governments going bankrupt. The most severely affected councils are currently allocating millions of pounds annually to manage an unparalleled surge in homelessness caused by increasing rental costs and a dwindling availability of affordable housing options.

  5. The British intelligence agencies are being investigated for their involvement in the CIA’s covert torture and transfer program after the events of 9/11 at Guantánamo Bay.

I think it’s not about tennis or the individuals involved, but rather about generating profit.

An aerial view of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, London.

Martin Sumpton, a resident of the area and a friend of Wimbledon Park, has dedicated a significant portion of his retirement to opposing the plans of AELTC. “I have a deep affection for the park and I believe it should be preserved for everyone,” he states.

However, Martin had a threshold as well. He departed from the planning meeting at Merton Civic Centre on Thursday evening prior to the vote due to the extended duration of the meeting. He stated, “If I had not left at that time, I would have missed the final bus home because it lasted so long.” The meeting, which commenced at 7:15pm on Thursday, continued until almost midnight, with interruptions from demonstrators who declared the council chamber a “climate crime scene”.

At the final vote, the council members approved the plan with a six to four majority. The proposal is to construct a covered show court with 8,000 seats and 38 additional grass courts on the parkland, which was originally designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century and is listed as Grade II.

Even though 13,338 individuals signed a petition to “Protect Wimbledon Park” and over 2,000 letters of disapproval were received from residents, the yes vote prevailed. In a rare instance of unity, both Stephen Hammond, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon, and Fleur Anderson, the Labour MP for Putney, expressed their opposition.

“We are in agreement about the significance of preserving our nearby green areas, addressing the urgent issue of climate change, and thoroughly examining any proposed developments that may affect the communities we serve,” they stated.

Approximately 300 trees are set to be taken down in order to make space for the AELTC’s construction project, which has been criticized by local residents as “corporate ecocide.” The club argues that the majority of these trees are of low quality, and plans to replace them by planting 1,500 new ones.

The legal agreement that has been in effect for 30 years.

In 1993, the ALETC purchased the freehold of Wimbledon Park from the Merton council for £5.2m, with plans to expand into the area. However, they agreed to a covenant stating that the land could only be used for leisure or recreational purposes, or as an open space.

Christopher Eubanks at Wimbledon.

In 2018, the club decided to lease their land to the Wimbledon Park golf club. However, the chairman expressed concerns that the SW19 championships would not be able to keep up with its competitors in New York, Paris, and Melbourne if no changes were made. To address this issue, the chairman suggested expanding and improving the facilities for players and spectators, which could be done by utilizing the space occupied by the golf club.

However, the lease of the golf club for the land was set to expire in 2041, leaving AELTC unable to reclaim the land for another 23 years. In order to circumvent this issue, the tennis club devised a clever strategy by offering the golf club members £65 million to terminate their membership early.

The £85,000 windfall to give up golf

The decision sparked a moral debate among the 758 members of the 120-year-old club, who would each receive a windfall of £85,000. One member, Catherine Devons, compared it to Brexit in 2018, stating that members were either for or against it. The offer has caused divisions among members and has jeopardized long-standing golf partnerships.

Ultimately, the majority of the club’s members, 82%, voted in support of the sale. Wimbledon, a posh area of London, was well represented in the golf club’s membership with notable names such as Piers Morgan, Ant McPartlin, Declan Donnelly, and Lord Gus O’Donnell, who previously served as cabinet secretary. O’Donnell opted to abstain from voting due to his position on the All England board with Tim Henman. The remaining members did not respond to requests for comment.

Martin was among the 12% who opposed and he continues to strongly desire his golf club. He laments, “It was originally intended for public use, but since the All England took over, fences have been erected and security guards now monitor it.” He adds, “And if they succeed in constructing on it, that valuable public space will be permanently lost just for the sake of tennis. I don’t think it’s really about tennis or the community, it’s all about profit.”

He contends that despite Merton council’s approval of the AELTC’s plans, they should not be permitted to proceed due to the covenant. However, Labour councillors, who hold the majority on Merton council, passed a motion last year stating that the covenant should be “respected” rather than “enforced,” as suggested by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.

Sally Bolton alongside Catherine, Princess of Wales and Tim Henman at Wimbledon.

Sally Bolton, the CEO of AELTC, expressed her joy at the approval of the plans. She stated that the proposals will not only ensure the longevity of the championships for future generations, but also bring about significant improvements to community facilities. This includes the creation of a 23 acre park that will be accessible to the public for the first time in over a century.

Your turn, Wandsworth.

The topmost section of Wimbledon Park is located outside of Merton. It falls under the jurisdiction of Wandsworth borough, and its planning committee will need to give approval for the proposal at a meeting anticipated to take place in November.

If the approval is granted, the responsibility will be handed over to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London who oversees development on metropolitan open land, which the park falls under. Michael Gove, the minister for promoting equality, housing, and communities, may also become involved.

Martin and the rest of the activists have initiated the process of composing letters urging them to intervene. However, if this attempt proves unsuccessful, they intend to pursue a judicial review contesting the legality of the decisions, specifically those concerning the covenant.

“Martin acknowledges the presence of many brilliant legal thinkers in our midst. Their invaluable assistance has greatly aided our cause thus far, and we have no doubt they will remain committed to the ongoing battle.”

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What other material have we been perusing?

Narmeen Kamran at a sober rave in London.
  • What is your way of unwinding after a hectic day at work, the hospital, or the store? Richard, a vice principal at an urban school, takes a train to a quiet rural area and spends the night in a sheltered bivvy (a waterproof cover for a sleeping bag) as a form of relaxation. In this insightful article by Daisy Schofield, we delve into how individuals in high-stress professions find ways to de-stress. – Rupert

  • Unfortunately, I was unable to click quickly enough to gain access to the exclusive WhatsApp groups of celebrities. In a recent article, Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin shared interesting insights about their experience in The Crown’s fourth season group, highlighting how it helped the cast form a strong bond. However, it was revealed that Tobias Menzies struggled with using the app. In addition, Jed Mercurio accidentally gave away a potential new series while renaming the sixth Line of Duty group. Acting deputy newsletters editor, Nazia Parveen, reported on these juicy details.

  • Can the policies implemented by Margaret Thatcher, specifically her “right to buy” initiative, be seen as a success in creating a democracy where property ownership is widespread? Or, has it instead led to increasing disparities and a surge in housing prices over the past four decades? Rowan Moore delves into this issue.

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates at full time with Erling Haaland.

Tributes have been given to Adam Johnson, a professional ice hockey player who passed away after a “freak incident” during a Challenge Cup game on Saturday evening between the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers.

England’s disappointing performance in the Cricket World Cup continued with a 100-run loss to India, the host team. Despite a strong showing in the field for 50 overs, with aggressive bowling and spirited fielding, England ultimately fell apart. This marks their fourth consecutive defeat and fifth overall in the tournament, while India remains undefeated and is likely to secure a spot in the semi-finals.

In the Premier League, Manchester City once again dominated their local rivals Manchester United with a 3-0 victory to end the weekend. City now sits in third place, while Tottenham and Arsenal, who are both from North London, also secured wins against Crystal Palace and struggling Sheffield United. Meanwhile, Liverpool, currently in fourth place, dedicated their 3-0 triumph over Nottingham Forest to their teammate Luis Diaz, who was unable to play due to his parents being kidnapped in Colombia.

The front pages

Guardian front page 30 October 2023

The Guardian reports on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, highlighting the United Nations’ statement on the breakdown of civil order in Gaza. The Times also covers this story, but focuses on the warning from the UN about the desperate situation in Gaza. The Financial Times provides updates on the Israeli ground assault against Hamas, while the Telegraph reports on Hamas’ actions to prevent foreign citizens from leaving. The Mail features a dispatch from two of its reporters near the Gaza border, describing the intense combat as a bloody spectacle.

The Mirror’s main story is about the passing of actor Matthew Perry, with the headline “Our Closest Companion”. The Sun also features Perry’s death on its front page, with the title “Loyal Until the End”.

Today in Focus

Former health secretary Matt Hancock, giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 inquiry.

is that

Based on what we have discovered from the Covid investigation thus far, it appears that

Earlier this year, an investigation was launched to examine the UK’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Testimonies have been given by various political figures, including David Cameron and George Osborne, as well as some of the scientists who provided guidance to the government. The current health secretary, Matt Hancock, has also shared his insights as he was in office when the pandemic began. This week, former top advisers at Downing Street, such as ex-communications director Lee Cain and ex-chief strategist Dominic Cummings, will be summoned to provide their accounts.

According to Peter Walker, the deputy political editor at the Guardian, the most dramatic moments in the investigation have not been from witness testimony, but from the large amount of evidence, including WhatsApp conversations, that has been submitted.

Daily Cartoon featuring Edith Pritchett.

Edith Pritchett/The Guardian.

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The Upside


A small piece of positive information to remind you that not everything in the world is negative.

Otter 841, the surfing sea otter.

At the beginning of the week, we revisit the story of sea otter 841, who gained attention during the summer for causing trouble with surfers and swimmers. This news became widespread in the US and captured the hearts of many. In July, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay aquarium tried to capture otter 841, but were unsuccessful each time. Recently, 841 has given birth to a pup, known as 841+1, and photos of the duo have been circulating online. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has cautioned admirers to keep their distance, as approaching the otters in the water could harm their survival.

Register for a weekly summary of The Upside, delivered to your inbox every Sunday.

Bored at work?

Lastly, the Guardian’s puzzles are available to keep you amused all day long – with even more options on the Guardian’s Puzzles app for both iOS and Android. See you tomorrow.

  • Quick crossword

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