Wimbledon's controversial plan to build 39 more courts shot down

Wimbledon tennis club’s controversial plan to build 39 more courts on top of existing 46 is shot down by council after furious locals claimed scheme would damage the environment and lead to more traffic

Wimbledon tennis club’s controversial scheme to expand its courts has been dealt a hammer blow by councillors.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) are proposing to build 39 new courts on top of the existing 46 at the world-famous site in Wimbledon, south London.

The plans were approved last month by Merton Council, where the majority of the development was set to take place.

But on Tuesday night neighbouring Wandsworth Council, on whose land at least five of the new courts were to be built, voted against the proposals after hours of heated debate.

The decision is the latest twist in a saga which has pitted the AELTC against residents of the two leafy London boroughs.

The Wimbledon plans have entered a stalemate after one of the two councils affected by the plans rejected them

Protesters outside Wandsworth Town Hall on Tuesday ahead of the crunch vote

An aerial view of how the expanded Wimbledon estate would look under the plans drawn up by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC)

A 3D rendering of how the additional 8,000 seat stadium would look in the grounds of the expanded Wimbledon estate

Labour MP Fleur Anderson outside Wandsworth Town Hall. She has opposed the Wimbledon expansion plans

The club argues the expansion would bring the tournament up to date with other tennis opens in France and America, by allowing the qualifying rounds to be held at Wimbledon.

It would also add a new 8,000 seat stadium to the grounds, which can already host 42,000 spectators.

READ MORE: ‘Tennis Disneyland’ Wimbledon plan greenlit – despite residents fighting it

But furious residents say the proposals would leave surrounding areas over-congested with traffic and have pointed to environmental concerns about removing some of the area’s green spaces to develop the courts.

Hundreds gathered outside Wandsworth Town Hall to protest the development ahead of the crunch vote on Tuesday.

The Greater London Authority is expected to review the decision, paving the way for it to be overturned or passed over to Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove for the final decision.

Conservative MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond said: ‘I am pleased that the council have voted in this way. I think this application is too big and very difficult to justify. It is not clear that you need the 39 courts, it is not clear that they to build the seize of show court they are talking about, and it is not clear that they have thought about the building in the public park.

‘I hope the club will realise that this application is unlikely to proceed in its current form quickly or ever. It is better that we all sit down and try and find a solution that works for everybody.

‘I still think the government will look at it because it is such a big project, and it does create precedents.’

Papers submitted from the Wimbledon Park Golf Course, one of the groups opposing the expansion, revealed in the last few days over 125 objections to the expansion were handed to the council.

‘These raise ‘issues including the heritage of the park, loss of trees and natural habitat and ecology, environmental impacts, impact on traffic and pedestrians during construction and during the Championships and issues relating to covenants on the land.’

Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Club, said: ‘Naturally, we are disappointed by the London Borough of Wandsworth’s 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 for consideration.’

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