Part of the deal whereby developers get planning permission for a lucrative new project, hinges on how much they agree to contribute to valuable local projects such as affordable housing (either on site or elsewhere), transport infrastructure, school or healthcare facilities. This kind of planning ‘sweetener’ is known as a Section 106 agreement.
So what’s in it for the community if AFC Wimbledon and Galliard Homes get the go-ahead to build in Plough Lane? The short answer is: we don’t know. Their planning application mentions an element of affordable housing. This is clearly, yet unconvincingly, outlined in the applicants’ cover letter to Merton Borough Council:
It is the intention that the scheme will provide an element of affordable housing, subject to viability
The application for planning permission to build a 20,000-seat stadium and 602 new homes also mentions the possibility of providing a financial contribution to improve public transport services in the vicinity. This is outlined in the Transport Assessment document as follows:
There will be some impact on local buses, in particular those using the Garrett Lane corridor, and it has been noted that there may be a requirement to fund enhancement to those services through the Section 106.
So we might get a few more buses, and there might be some affordable housing. Not exactly a compelling offer, is it? Discussions are undoubtedly going on behind the scenes, but what exactly will AFC Wimbledon and their billionaire property developer bedfellows Galliard Homes contribute to local coffers to help enhance services in the wider Merton community?
Let’s look at a scheme in neighbouring Wandsworth, where developers have been given planning permission to build 290 new homes with retail units. In return they have agreed to pay £7.8m towards improving transport and community services including building a new primary school. More than 20% of the new homes created will be offered to local people to rent or buy at a reduced price.
If this is what can be achieved just over the border in Wandsworth, surely we in Merton could hope for something similar? Come on, AFC Wimbledon, show a REAL commitment to the local community and tell us what you’re offering.