Plough Lane: the consultation farce

As a near neighbour of Plough Lane, do you feel you have been thoroughly ‘consulted’ about plans to redevelop the Greyhound Stadium?

No, us neither.

Despite this being a major development in a critical traffic spot, Merton Borough Council has limited its engagement over the scheme with residents to:

  • sending out two circulars alerting residents that a planning application had been submitted. Distribution was patchy, with many businesses and homes close to the site saying they had not received documentation.
  • organising a public meeting at which AFCW’s CEO spoke. There was no representative there from Galliard Homes or the GRA (the club’s developer partners).
  • collating documents relating to the application in a lengthy, difficult to navigate list on the Merton online planning portal. Original documents are muddled up with revised documents. Wandsworth reports complaints from residents that the information listed is inaccessible and that a summary document would be useful. We agree.

AFC Wimbledon and Galliard Homes are seeking permission to build a 20,000-seat stadium attached to a 602-home housing development. A public exhibition of proposals was held to provide information before the application was submitted. Opinions were sought. The club’s Chief Executive spoke at the public meeting mentioned above.

Since then, there has been zero attempt by the club and developers to engage with the local community. We have received no update on how local concerns were being addressed, and no notice of when revised application documents were likely to be re-submitted.

But it’s not just residents who have been kept out of the loop. Businesses haven’t been involved either.

Christopher’s Gym was surprised when the original application went in, to find that no parking was provided for visitors. It continues to object to the revised designs saying, “we believe that the plans for the site will not only see the demise of the club, but we also do not believe the plans meet the planning brief as set out by the council in its Sites and Policies Development Plan in 2012”.

Wimbledon Art Studios, which sits right on the edge of the stadium site, objected to the plans on parking and traffic grounds too. As a major local business unit, why weren’t they consulted by the applicants?

Neighbouring Garrett Business Park is in the same boat: lack of consultation, lack of information, lack of involvement. Which has led inevitably to their registered objection to the plans. For example:

  • on traffic: “there are no obvious solutions or deliverable improvements that will be made to mitigate impact”;
  • on match-day road closures:  “will significantly hamper local business”;
  • on security: “no serious acknowledgement of potential security risks to the privately owned Garrett Business Park & no proposals made to mitigate these risks”;
  • on parking: “capacity is already over-subscribed and no extra provision has been proposed”.

NHS stakeholders have also complained that the applicants used inaccurate information AND failed to consult over the scheme.

Par 66 of the National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear: “Applicants will be expected to work closely with those directly affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community.”

Has this really happened? We think not. A public exhibition almost two years ago followed by a public meeting nine months ago? Not really ‘working closely’ is it? The basic design has changed little since it was first revealed, demonstrating the developers’ contempt for our community.

We conclude: consultation over the Plough Lane development plans has been a box-ticking exercise by AFC Wimbledon, Galliard Homes AND Merton Borough Council rather than a genuine exercise in seeking and responding to concerns, suggestions and concerns by local stakeholders. Shameful.

Myth: it’s AFCW or nothing