Some AFC Wimbledon fans (mainly those we see on Twitter, to be fair) seem to think that everyone opposing the club’s Plough Lane stadium plans does so for one of three reasons:
- They are greyhound racing supporters
- They hate AFC Wimbledon, and probably football in general
- They come from Milton Keynes (it’s a long story)
So they may find it enlightening to discover that the Burntwood School meeting this week was packed with residents who were not generally anti-AFCW. Hey, guys, it turns out that local folk (like us) actually have genuine concerns about the effects on our neighbourhood of a massive and potentially life-changing development, rather than simply being a bunch of NIMBY football haters. Who knew?! But getting back to the meeting, what were the main areas of concern that came to light?
1. TRAFFIC: there is really going to be a problem for Wandsworth residents, and the concern is that the Plough Lane scheme plus the cumulative impact of 800 new homes on the Springfield Hospital site has not been considered properly.
2. BENEFITS: AFC Wimbledon will end up with a permanent home in the borough, so we and all those farflung ‘Wombles’ will be able to attend football matches just round the corner. One person pointed out that AFCW already runs various community schemes – but these will not take place at the stadium. They take place at various venues around the borough – and this will not change. It was also pointed out that the squash club will be retained – but this is existing sporting use on-site rather than an additional facility. Merton’s claim of ‘sporting intensification’ for the site doesn’t seem to apply.
3. COMMUNITY FACILITIES: the development does nothing to address the shortage of school places or GP surgeries for people who live in the vicinity. A speaker from Savills (part of the developers’ team) referred to talks with Wandsworth Borough Council about provision for educational facilities, but this was contradicted by Cllr Kathy Tracey, a member of the council’s education cabinet who was in attendance.
4. LACK OF IMPACT ASSESSMENT: some of the key issues that will have the greatest impact locally (road closures, supporter movements on matchdays) have been excluded from the impact assessment because they are “not the developer’s responsibility”, but will be left until after planning consent is granted. In layman’s terms, that means the developer does his work, trousers the profit – and leaves the police/council/residents to deal with the fall-out.
Wandsworth councillors and Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, who attended the meeting, appear to be in no doubt about the strength of local feeling on these issues – and aware of the potential problems associated with the Plough Lane development, which is reassuring. The London Assembly member for Wandsworth and Merton Richard Tracey spoke, appearing uncomfortable with the fact that the planning application will be decided by Merton councillors although it has a major impact on neighbouring Wandsworth.
Members of the audience who spoke in favour of the AFCW scheme, emphasised the club’s good works and its friendly nature, but since this was essentially a meeting designed for residents to air their concerns, it is not surprising that most voices were focused on cons rather than pros.
We came away with the impression that the meeting gave many an opportunity to express their concerns, and that the developers were able to state their case, but that documents submitted in support of the application are far from comprehensive.
And we obviously have a number of extra concerns – which you can read about elsewhere on this website and blog – but these were the main topics covered at the meeting. There’s a good report of the meeting too at the Tooting Online website so check that out too – everyone who attends a meeting comes away with a different impression, so it is interesting to read different takes on it.