AELTC Wimbledon Park proposals – Response to third consultation from Fleur Anderson MP
I am writing in response to the third consultation on your proposals for the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project. Thank you for your briefing on-line and on site with local residents to explain the proposals for the new park, the new show court and practice court and for some projects in Wimbledon Park.
Over the past few months, I have been engaging with the Tenants & Residents Associations, community groups and private residents regarding the AELTC’s proposals. There is much concern amongst local residents in Southfields about the plans – especially for the show court – and how this consultation process has been conducted.
There are aspects of these plans which are welcome, and especially the new public access park in the place of a private golf course. Also that these plans take the opportunity of the change from a golf course to a park to increase biodiversity, protection of the mature trees, return to acid grassland, and an increase in the number of trees and more local and higher ‘quality’ trees than the current trees on the golf course. The proposed fully accessible walkway around the whole lake all year round will be a very welcome walk for local residents of all ages. Also as regards the existing Wimbledon Park, de-silting the lake is a project which has been needed for many years, as well as the increased waterways and swales (ditches) which protect the Southfields Grid from flooding. The new community centre in the existing club house is welcome too.
However, residents feel that the Championships have a disproportionate impact on the local community and are pushing this proposal through without listening to local people about the year-round negative impact on the local area, the environment, air quality and road closures. The main concern is about the size of the show court and the high number of qualifying/practice courts, the environmental impacts of the proposals, the closure of Church Road, continued plans to park on Wimbledon Park (figure 5 in the overview diagram), the lack of discussion of the construction process and how that will impact upon local residents, and the general scaling up of the proposals and adding the Show Court in between the consultations.
I am disappointed that this consultation was not more widely circulated to the public. Having spoken to various residents’ associations and local residents on the Wandsworth side of the park, it is clear that very few people outside of these groups have any idea that the consultation is happening.
It was difficult to find the closing the date of the questionnaire. It wasn’t on the poster or clearly on the website. I appreciate that you have made the plans available to the public for comment before going to the planning stage, but the communication of the plans and the consultation has been below par. This leads to a lack of trust about the proposals themselves and what will really happen. Most local people still do not realise that there are 10 years of building works ahead in our local community. I know that this has been challenging during the pandemic, but it is vital to work more with the community.
I am grateful for the walkabout which you held with me and other local residents and to see the plans in situ. This really helped to understand the thinking behind the proposals, impact on our local landscape and roads, and the environmental impact as well. More events like this would be very welcome.
The Parkland Show Court:
Having engaged with local groups and residents, it is very clear to me that the plans for the Parkland Show Court are giving people the most cause for concern. It is not only the show court itself, but also the disruption caused by the building process that is particularly alarming to local residents and stakeholders. It should be scaled down, sunk further down to reduce the height or located in the within the existing site rather than the protected green space of Metropolitan Open Land.
The show court is overdevelopment for the area. It is far too large for this site in a residential area and at odds with the environmental goals for this redevelopment. It is too large for the site, will dominate the parkland, is not appropriate for development on Metropolitan Open Land.
Both Merton and Wandsworth councils have declared a Climate Emergency and these Show Court plans undermine the Environmental Strategies of both. At a time of climate emergency, this is not an appropriate development.
I would be grateful if you would consider and respond to the following points:
1) The Parkland Show Court did not appear until the second phase of the consultation. It is the major feature of the project and the one that is most likely to cause disruption to people in my constituency. Why did it only appear at the second stage of the consultation? And what is the necessity of building the Parkland Show Court at all?
2) Will AELTC listen to the concerns of local residents and reduce or re-locate the Show Court plans?
3) Why are there plans to build the show court on Metropolitan Open Land? Metropolitan Open is intended to be protected and provides land with the same level of protection as the Green Belt. Could the show court be built on the existing Wimbledon site? Have alterative proposals for locating the new show court been considered?
4) There is concern about how the show court will affect the vista. What is the case / necessity for the new show court being so large and is there not a case for reducing the capacity?
5) The plans states: “The parkland show court has been specifically suggested to be located in the park so that it sits outside of the Members’ Club and therefore is more accessible for year-round activities. We consider these could include acting as the main base for any smaller tournaments, events, school visits, and the facilities can also be opened up for wider community benefit.”
This (point 5) raises some questions:
a) What specifically are the community activities that the parkland show court will be accessible for?
b) How can the facilities be opened up for wider community benefit? I would like to see concrete plans for how the show court is going to be opened up for the benefit of the wider community.
6) There are other buildings that will be constructed around the show court that do not appear clearly in these plans. When will we see full plans that include all additional buildings displayed clearly?
Biodiversity & Environmental Impacts:
There are also a number of environmental concerns. Please address the following points:
1) Does the environmental impact of the show court outweigh the positive impact of the new parkland? How have you assessed this?
2) What guarantee do you have in place to ensure that you do not further expand and develop onto the new Parkland so that it is only public access for a short time (eg 20 years) to secure this application.
3) Wimbledon Park has been placed on Historic England’s ‘At Risk Register’ due to uncertainty about the park’s future, stating reasons such as the impacts of divided ownership on landscape management, views of the original designed landscape being obscured, and the deteriorating condition of the lake. How will these proposals help get the park out of its ‘At Risk’ status?
4) How will the sensitive process of de-silting the lake be handled? It is an expensive and lengthy process, and if not done correctly could be disastrous to the biodiversity of the lake.
5) Can you confirm that the yacht club, angling club and other groups that use the lake have been consulted on the plans for the walkway and on the desilting process?
6) There are concerns that the walkway around the lake will reduce the size of the lake and therefore have a negative impact on biodiversity. What can be done to change this? Can the walkway be built around the existed boundary of the lake?
7) Can we have assurances that no building work will go ahead until we have strict and immovable environmental measures in place to protect the biodiversity of the existing landscape and the surrounding area?
There is much discussion over the benefits to the local community but very few specifics examples. I need to understand what specific benefits my constituents will receive from these proposals. There will undoubtedly be disruption during the construction period and afterwards due to the increase in capacity and the lengthening of the tournament period in Southfields. Can you explain what AELTC will do to invest in the public land surrounding this development and how you will run the community centre in the current golf club house?
Construction Traffic and the Impact on Air Quality
We already suffer with poor air quality in Southfields. That problem is made worse during the tournament each year, with increased traffic in the area, parking on Wimbledon Park and the now the closure of Church Road.
The addition of the parkland show court will undoubtedly increase traffic and bring heavy goods vehicles to the area during the lengthy construction process. There is no mention in the proposals of how AELTC plans to mitigate the impact of this disruption. There are residents who remember the last time there was the construction of a show court at Wimbledon, and they are particularly worried about the return of all the problems they experienced before.
How do you plan to:
1) Ensure that the construction process does not contribute to the worsening of air quality in the area?
2) Account for the imposition of the process on people living locally?
3) Avoid using Wimbledon Park Road?
Closure of Church Road for the Championships:
Many residents do not want Church Road to be closed for three weeks and already face significant disruption for a considerable period of the year. One local resident told me she was asked to show her passport to access her road during this year’s tournament. Local residents should continue to be allowed access (just as VIPS are) and there should be no knock-on closures to residents in other local roads.
I understand that the reason given for the closure of Church Road is due to security concerns. That is understandable and I recognise that we must take measures to ensure the safety of guests and local residents. I do, however, know that my constituents are keen to explore other options, including the building of an underpass underneath Church Road or the deployment of temporary bridges as has been done previously. Both of these measures would at least remove the need rerouting the 493 bus and help reduce traffic pressures on the rest of the area during the Championships. Would you consider including them in your proposals?
Parking on Wimbledon Park during the Championships:
Regarding ongoing parking on Wimbledon Park you say:
“Public car parking on site will be significantly reduced, supported by an enhanced park and ride service and greater support for cyclists and micro-mobility.”
The proposed car parking on Wimbledon Park itself are very objected to by local residents. This year the grass was very churned up leaving damage to a large area of the park for many months after the championships as well as limiting free access to the park during the Championships themselves. There is also a concern that this will be used for a longer period for qualifiers as well. These are some of the best weeks in the year to use the Park and yet residents do not have access and instead have a car park.
Local residents would like a commitment to stop using Wimbledon Park for parking.
I welcome the reduction of car parking space and certainly support the promotion of using public transport and cycling, but why is it necessary to retain parking on Wimbledon Park at all? Residents were very concerned about news of an increase in the parking area this year, and LB Merton informed them that the increase in the parking area was due to work being done to increase AELTC underground parking capacity. Could parking for future Championships not be moved there or to more Park and Ride?
There are concerns that 39 courts are too many. They cannot be used in between tournaments and require buildings to house to house the maintenance equipment so both this increases the amount of buildings on protected Metropolitan Open land. The courts are spaced out which I appreciate is to enable a distance from the veteran trees but also increase the need for paths and additional maintenance buildings. Can you reconsider the number of courts and reduce them?
Thank you for taking the time to read my submission to the third consultation. I look forward to your response.