Can ‘minor changes’ fix this application?

Team AFCW are busy “preparing responses to the issues raised” by statutory consultees regarding their planning application for Plough Lane, the club’s chief executive Erik Samuelson writes in a letter to Tooting MP Sadiq Khan.

The missive, published on the AFC Wimbledon website, is responding to a letter from the MP in which he suggests the club should review its plans before they go before Merton planners.

Samuelson adds: “…it may be necessary to make minor changes to the scheme. We don’t however anticipate making any substantive changes to the scale or disposition of the proposed development.”

Minor changes?? To recap, the plans have now been assessed and found wanting by bodies and groups including:

  • The Environment Agency. Verdict: Object, as there’s insufficient information to prove the application will not increase flood risk on site or in surrounding areas. They suggest the developers revisit their documents to answer the questions that the agency wanted addressed when they met initially. Can they come up with the right answers this time…?
  • NHS England. Verdict: The application makes false assertions and inaccurate calculations. In other words, stop inventing facts, and can you swap the supermarket for a healthcare centre please?
  • Local businesses. Verdict: flooding, traffic and transport provision are all sub-standard. The applicants failed to consult companies based on Riverside Road business park. Doh!
  • Transport for London. Verdict: oppose due to inadequate assessment of traffic and transport effects of a 20,000-seater stadium. Maybe spend less time (mis-)counting the number of on-street parking spaces and more time working out the effects of closing local roads when there’s a match on? Just an idea!
  • Sport England. Verdict: object, as the development provides too few sports facilities for the local community. ‘Community club fails to provide community sport at its new community stadium’: not a great advert for AFC Wimbledon is it?
  • The Greater London Authority. Verdict: the scheme contravenes The London Plan on grounds including over-density of housing, inaccessibility, transport, play space and flooding. Goodness me, that does sound like  more than ‘minor changes’, doesn’t it? More like ‘cut the number of homes, revisit the design and think very hard about how you’re going to manage water flow and visitor numbers’.
  • Wandsworth Borough Council. Verdict: oppose. See all points mentioned above. Plus retail: the developers have failed to carry out a proper retail assessment on the proposals.

But look on the bright side: none of the statutory consultees have actually raised an objection ‘in principle’ to the plans to site a football stadium in Plough Lane. We’re not opposed ‘in principle’ to a lot of things. It’s the practice that’s the problem, and that’s where the issue lies with these ill-conceived plans.

Mr Samuelson does acknowledge in his letter that some local residents have “genuine concerns” about the planning application, adding “we are confident that we will be able to address these concerns”.

We hope so too, as traffic, infrastructure, transport and flooding are all issues on which the current application fails and ones which have a huge bearing on quality of life at this end of Merton and Wandsworth boroughs. But will ‘minor changes’ be enough to fix what is currently looking like a pretty flaky set of plans?