London's deputy mayor takes over decision on Wimbledon tennis complex expansion

Proposal for 39 new courts in Wimbledon Park includes an 8,000-seat show court

The planned expansion of the Wimbledon site. Photo: AELTC
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The Mayor of London's office has taken over the decision to grant planning permission for the All England Lawn Tennis Club's plans to almost triple the size of the Wimbledon world-famous tennis tournament site.

After a hearing on Monday, the deputy mayor, Jules Pipe, issued a direction under the Town and Country Planning [Mayor of London] Order giving him the authority to become the local planning authority to determine the application.

The decision will be made by Mr Pipe after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recused himself for publicly expressing support for the expansion in 2021.

"This is a major planning application, of London-wide significance," a spokesman for the Mayor of London said.

"A full planning hearing will be held in due course."

The proposal, which includes 39 new courts in Wimbledon Park, one of which will be an 8,000-seat show court, was backed by Merton Council, but rejected by neighbouring Wandsworth.

That council ruled that there were no “very special circumstances” to outweigh the harm to and loss of open land.

Both councils are required to approve the proposal for the complex, which straddles the two areas.

Merton Council referred the application to the Greater London Authority after the split decision.

The application has met fierce resistance from some local residents, with pressure group Save Wimbledon Park campaigning against the proposals.

The All England Club wants to build on a site in Wimbledon Park, which used to be owned by a golf club and is classed as Metropolitan Open Land, given protection that treats such spaces in London in a similar way to the green belt.

This means the land can only be built on in “very special circumstances”.

The club says that the project, which will bring the qualifying tournament, currently held in Roehampton, to Wimbledon, will turn 9.3 hectares of previously private land into a new public park and create hundreds of jobs.

But many in the community object to the loss of the open land.

They say the project would rip out almost 300 trees and pour thousands of tonnes of concrete into the ground, resulting in the loss of biodiversity.

Iain Simpson, Chairman of the Save Wimbledon Park group, welcomed the Deputy Mayor's decision to review this application.

He said: "The consequences of aggressive development of open space, particularly on MOL, has, as they say, London-wide significance.

"In an election year, it is notable that all political parties have declared their opposition to the AELTC’s plans. Save Wimbledon Park have been fighting this application since it was made three years ago. We have been urging the AELTC to speak to us, their local communities: it is time for them to think again."

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Local MPs Stephen Hammond and Fleur Anderson also oppose it.

Debated over the plans began about two years ago, when the club first submitted proposals for the site.

All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton has said the 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".

Updated: January 24, 2024, 8:05 AM