So, about this new stadium that Merton is being gifted…

We are dying to know more details about the TOTALLY AMAZING news that after it’s built a 20,000-seat (yep, that’s the size on which the naming rights are being marketed) stadium in Plough Lane, Galliard Homes are going to hand it over GRATIS to Merton Borough Council.

So OUR council will OWN a spanking-new, state-of-the-art, sport stadium AT ZERO COST to the tax payer? Residents, rejoice!

No doubt Merton will come to us with a few options for how it could be used to ensure that as TAX PAYERS we get the BEST RETURN POSSIBLE on this fantastic new facility.

[Excuse the overuse of CAPITALS but we feel that this news is simply TOO EXCITING to be left lowercase]

Hang on a minute, though… Didn’t we learn at the Ricards Lodge meeting this week, that AFC Wimbledon has already been promised the leasehold on the Plough Lane stadium?

In which case, we have a few questions for Merton Borough Council on this cosy little leasehold scenario…

  • How much is the football club going to be charged? Is it a market rate*? Will it be calculated on a sliding scale so if AFCW are promoted and start earning more, the cost of their leasehold* increases?
  • How long will the leasehold be for?
  • What happens if (heaven forbid) AFC Wimbledon start to slip down the leagues? If earnings drop, they no longer require such a large stadium and can’t afford to pay the leasehold, will council taxpayers be out of pocket?
  • Who pays for maintenance of the stadium? AFCW or Merton (ie us!)?
  • Is the council under any obligation to taxpayers in the borough to maximise leasehold income from a municipally-owned facility? In which case, shouldn’t the site be put out to tender, with AFCW bidding for it on the open market?
  • When did the council decide that the best tenant for the site was AFC Wimbledon? Was this at a public meeting?

As local residents with no expertise in the ins and outs of local authority legalities and finance arrangements, we are genuinely interested in the answer to all these questions, so if anyone can shed any light on this potentially lucrative arrangement for the borough, we would love to know more.

Could it mean a  substantial increase in income for Merton Borough Council to help pay for threatened services in the leisure, education, social care services? Could it help pay for park maintenance, refuse collection, road sweeping, new cycle-friendly measures to enhance our neighbourhoods?

Do PLEASE let us know so we can start to feel the love towards AFCW and MBC  that has been hitherto so sadly lacking in the course of this poorly-handled planning application process.

Update 1: *Word ‘rent’ amended to rate/leasehold following comment from a twitter follower. Many thanks. All constructive input welcome

Update 2: we have been informed by an AFCW fan who knows a lot more about this leasehold thing than we do, that apparently Merton will own the land, while the stadium belongs to the football club. PS wouldn’t it be nice if our local council kept us informed about these matters?