It’s a bit of a grey area on which Merton Borough Council has issued no comments, as far as we are aware. Our Conservative ward councillors seem unaware of discussions with the council about gifting the stadium site to the borough, but AFCW’s Chief Executive publicly stated this would be the case when he spoke at a public meeting at Ricards Lodge School earlier this year.
Of course members of Merton Labour Party may have a better idea about behind the scenes discussions on this matter, but as mere residents, we couldn’t possibly expect to be kept in the loop could we?
AFC Wimbledon does, however, seem very clear on what would happen should they win approval to build their stadium. We learn via The Dons Trust:
“Once Galliard have completed the acquisition of the entire site, they will transfer the freehold of that part of the site that will become the football stadium to either the London Borough of Merton or an entity nominated by the LBM (our expectation is the former, but that is a decision for the council to make). The freeholder will then enter into a long-term lease with AFC Wimbledon…
“The terms and conditions of the lease have not yet been agreed. We are seeking a long-term lease in line with current practice, but we do not expect it to be less than the term of our lease at Kingsmeadow [AFCW’s current ground in Norbiton] ie 125 years.
“We do not expect there to be an up-front premium payable to Merton for the lease. We expect there to be ground rent and we are in discussion as to how that will be structured.”
We say: so if Merton is being gifted the land on which AFC Wimbledon’s new stadium will stand, shouldn’t residents have a right to know on exactly what basis they are going to lease it to AFCW? Whether other tenants might be considered? How much ground rent will be? Will it be a market rent etc etc?
Oh, and a cursory Google of the terms football stadium + council + rent + dispute reveals the potential pitfalls (on both sides) of a local authority becoming the local football club’s landlord…