It’s tricky being a local councillor or MP when a controversial planning application is lodged. Do you oppose it – and risk alienating a proportion of your constituents who disagree? Or do you support it – and risk alienating other residents whose votes you will be counting on come election day?
There’s an added complication if you sit on the planning committee that will ultimately rule on said application: you don’t want to say anything in advance that might suggest your neutrality has been compromised. This happened when three councillors in Hounslow resigned from the planning committee due to conflict of interest over the Brentford FC stadium planning application. Two lived nearby and one was a self-confessed fan.
Will the same happen in Merton when the AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes application goes before the planning committee? How many of our local representatives will declare an interest either personally or because a family member is an AFC Wimbledon supporter?
Meanwhile, it’s of interest to local residents like us to know what our councillors and MPs are saying about the Plough Lane scheme.
Merton councillors have, sensibly, remained ‘tight-lipped’ in public. But over the border in Wandsworth and Tooting, we are starting to get a feel for the strength of local opinion on the plans, via submissions to Merton that their elected representatives have made public.
To summarise, Mr Khan says:
- constituents are ‘broadly supportive of the decision to regenerate the site’
- residents are concerned about the transport impact of the AFCW proposals, especially weekday evening matches ‘when trains to the area are already packed’
- he’d like to see plans in place to manage the walking route to the ground in terms of litter and anti-social behaviour
- traffic plans should look again at parking provision, as well as bear in mind other pending developments such as nearby Springfield Hospital
- flooding worries must be addressed
- there must be adequate planning for increased demands on education and health services
- any development should be fully accessible to the local community.
Having listened to the opinions of people in the area, Earlsfield councillor Rachael Stokes issued a similarly well-considered statement, saying ‘whilst residents are broadly supportive of moves to regenerate the site, they have raised specific concerns relating to the scale and intensity of the proposed development and… the potential impact on local infrastructure’.
Her specific issues with the AFCW/Galliard plans are broadly similar to those expressed by Sadiq Khan, although she also lists a fear that the scale of the development could have a negative impact on Earlsfield’s ‘family-friendly, village feel’.
Tooting Graveney councillor Andy Elson and AFC Wimbledon supporter (as stated on his Twitter account) hasn’t publicly announced a personal submission on the development, although he may well have done so. But we do see via his Twitter feed that ‘I’ve had positive responses from local residents in my ward.’
Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh – a lifelong Wimbledon fan – takes a more ‘personal’ approach to the issue, however.
Her submission to Merton Borough Council makes no reference at all to the views of her constituents – neither, incidentally, does it make it clear that she is an AFCW supporter – but states that she personally backs the AFCW/Galliard application. Read her submission here.
‘Returning to a base close to their roots will also secure the future of Wimbledon Football Club’, the MP writes.
On what the people of Mitcham and Morden think, she makes absolutely no comment.
Please let us know if you know of any other local councillors or MPs who have stated a public view on the Plough Lane development proposals as we would love to add them to this article.