Oh dear, is there no end to the evidence of how poorly conceived are the plans for Plough Lane that have been submitted for consideration by Merton Borough Council?
As we mentioned months ago, it turns out that building the football stadium and housing development in Plough Lane as proposed by AFC Wimbledon would actually DECREASE public participation in sport.
The President of Christophers Squash and Fitness Club points out that it has been located on the stadium site since 1972 and boasts of it being one of the strongest squash clubs in the country. But the business is at risk if the current plans are not amended to increase parking for the club’s visitors.
The squash/fitness club is the only option currently included in AFC Wimbledon’s plans for Plough Lane that actively increases public participation in sport (as opposed to passively attending a football match). However, it would be unable to function under the planning application that has been submitted.
AFCW has allocated two parking spaces for the club, which would be shared with a proposed retail unit. The President of Christophers says that although they are delighted to be getting a brand new clubhouse, they need more like 20 parking spaces for current levels of activity to continue.
Sports and classes on offer at the club cater for some 75,000 visits a year, including squash, gym, dance, fitness, keep fit classes for the elderly and martial arts. Local schools visit the club to supplement PE lessons, while facilities are also hired for weddings, celebrations and funeral wakes making it a true community asset for many in this area.
It is in fact exactly the kind of club you’d hope for on a site earmarked for sporting intensification. And while Christophers Gym is pleased that the council specified it must be given a building in the new development (AFCW duly obliged, as the planning application shows), it is undeniable that without associated parking it simply cannot operate.
The club’s President states in his submission to MBC: “Our dance classes are attended mainly by girls (over 90%) and the vast majority are of primary and junior school age with a very large number brought by their parents from across both Merton and Wandsworth in motor cars for safety as well as convenience.”
Absolutely! As local residents, whose children have attended dance classes at Christophers, we can confirm that getting a child to after-school dance sessions with siblings in tow and then back home in time for tea and bedtime on a wet winter’s night is only possible because of the availability of parking. A miserable trudge to and from the site on foot or by bus – in the dark – with a clutch of children, a pushchair and kit bags simply does not work.
The submission continues: “We also have teams arriving for squash matches from all over Surrey on four nights of every week of the year, given we are one of the best clubs in the area and the country. teams just could and would not come to the club – with all their kit – if there was nowhere to park.”
Further proof, if it were needed, that AFCW’s current vision for Plough Lane is not fit for purpose… We find it increasingly unbelievable that the club and its developer mates could hope to get this planning application passed without substantial amendments.
Perhaps reducing the amount of housing on the site might help create more space for essential parking, better amenities for residents, lessen the risks of flooding, and ease pressure on local schools and healthcare services?
Perhaps it’s time to withdraw this application, put a lot more work into it to satisfy the concerns of agencies including the Environment Agency, Transport for London, NHS England and Sport England – as well as the Greater London Authority and residents – and then resubmit it once it is actually fit for purpose, as Tooting MP Sadiq Khan has suggested in a letter to AFC Wimbledon’s chief executive Erik Samuelson?