Conservative and Lib Dem candidates oppose tennis stadium at Wimbledon Park 

Conservative candidate Danielle Dunfield-Prayero came out in opposition on Friday to a controversial planning application that would redevelop Wimbledon Park Golf Course into new tennis grounds. 

The application, brought forward by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), proposed to expand the park by building 38 courts, an 8,000 seat stadium, two public parks, footpaths and roads.  

“Green spaces in Wimbledon and the Maldens are essential for our community and our health,” said Dunfield-Prayero. 

Lib Dem candidate and Merton councillor Paul Kohler has also voiced opposition saying he and his party has been against the proposal since 2021. 

The tennis club bought the land in 1993, and, due to a covenant that restricted land use to leisure and open space, paid a reduced price.  

Cllr Kohler said: “Turning Capability Brown’s landscaped parkland into a concreted industrial tennis complex, with 9km of roads and the loss of 300 mature trees, represents a gross over-development of Metropolitan Open Land, especially a 10 storey show court that will blight all of Wimbledon Park.” 

Dunfield-Prayero said she is committed to finding a solution and will be speaking to the CEO of AELTC after the championships to discuss the matter further.  

The planning proposal received backlash from residents who submitted over 2000 letters of objection and pressure group SaveWimbledonPark (SWP) formed to fight the application. 

SWP has criticised the planning proposal, arguing that an ‘industrial tennis complex’ violated the 1993 covenant and expressed concerns over biodiversity in the area, which includes the felling of 300 mature trees.  

“[Open parkland] will be bulldozed, levelled rearranged and it will take eight years to do that. Which of the creatures that will come back and how quickly? God knows,” said Coombe. 

While proposed pathways in the park meet the covenant’s requirements on leisure and open space, SWP claimed public access to these pathways is ‘permissive’, meaning that public access could be withdrawn at any time.

The Labour candidate for Wimbledon and deputy leader of Merton Council, Cllr Eleanor Stringer has not yet pledged support for SWP.  

However, Cllr Stringer said: “The owners of the site must work hand in hand with the local community so that the use of the ex-golf course has tangible and lasting benefits to the local community and protects the public park for generations to come.”

Cllr Stringer has stated that any proposed plans to the park must respect the conditions of the covenant.

Cllr Kohler has called for Cllr Stringer to extend support for the campaign.

He said: “Up until now the Labour candidate has voted against and/or attempted to frustrate all my attempts in Council to force the AELTC to honour their 1993 legal promise not to build on the land.” 

Despite this, former Labour MP for Putney and candidate for re-election, Fleur Anderson, has remained a consistent ally to SWP’s campaign.   

“This is an inappropriate development in highly protected Metropolitan Open Land and a Grade II listed park. There is a creation of a small area of public park in the proposal but most of this will be closed in May and June every year for the Championships,” said Anderson.  

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has said that by opening the private golf course grounds to the public, they are increasing the green space available by up to 50%. 

They have also pledged to keep seven championship standard grass tennis courts open for community use and to plant over 1,500 new trees in the park. 

“It is wrong to suggest that there will be an adverse effect on the biodiversity of the site. We have conducted over 1,000 hours of ecological surveys on the site and expert analysis indicates there will be a significant biodiversity net gain of at least 10% as a result of these plans,” said a spokesperson for the AELTC. 

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Political Editor and Reporter for the Kingston Courier

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