Wimbledon: All England Club's expansion plans rejected by Wandsworth Council

Wandsworth council rejected proposals to expand Wimbledon's courts (Handout)
Wandsworth council rejected proposals to expand Wimbledon's courts (Handout)

Wimbledon's ambitious expansion plans for 39 new courts, including an 8,000-seater show court, have suffered a blow after being unanimously rejected by Wandsworth Council.

The £200million overhaul by the All England Club was previously approved by Merton Council, but their Wandsworth counterparts rejected the plans by seven votes to nil at a planning committee meeting last night.

The boundaries cover both councils and, although the majority of the plot lies in Merton Council territory, the plans need the approval of both councils. The Wandsworth rejection means the project will now be referred to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Greater London Authority. It could then be sent to Government level.

As yet, we have won nothing, but this result is heartening — it's more important keeping open space public

Iain Simpson, chair of Save Wimbledon Park

A petition objecting to the expansion on the former Wimbledon Park Golf Club has attracted 15,000 signatures, and a group of protestors gathered outside Wandsworth Town Hall ahead of the meeting to voice their objections.

Planning officers had advised Wandsworth councillors to reject the proposal on the grounds of the "physical harm" it would do to Metropolitan Open Land and did not back Merton planning officers' argument that the "very special circumstances" of the plans outweighed any potential harm.

Following the vote, Iain Simpson, chair of Save Wimbledon Park, said: "This result is very heartening. The councillors unanimously rejected the crucial point that this application provides no justification for so much harm to Metropolitan Open Land.

"We have nothing against the tennis. However, protecting the environment, a desire shared by the GLA and all Londoners… and keeping open space truly public for the recreation and wellbeing or real communities is more important. As yet, we have won nothing."

In response, Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Club, said: "Naturally, we are disappointed by the decision. Our proposals will deliver one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since 2012, alongside substantial benefits for the local community.

"We firmly believe the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project offers significant social, economic and environmental improvements, including turning 23 acres of previously private land into a new public park, alongside hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of pounds in economic benefits for our neighbours in Wandsworth, Merton and across London.

"Given the split council decision, with the London Borough of Merton resolving to approve our application last month, our planning application will now be referred to the Mayor of London's office."