AFC Wimbledon are justifiably proud of their reputation as a ‘community club’ and undoubtedly carry out many community functions locally, raising money for charity, running training programs for kids, handing out donated gifts at local hospitals and so on.
But how far does their application to build a new stadium on Plough Lane fit their ‘community club’ image?
Fans of the club are predictably loyal and vociferous in their support of the stadium development proposals. It is worth noting, however, that a high proportion of AFC Wimbledon supporters live outside the area, and we don’t just mean over the borough border: an army of loyal fans exists as far away as Australia. Fabulous for the club, but it does make their opinions pretty irrelevant as regards the implications of a largescale development of the Plough Lane site for local residents.
Afterall, how can fans who commute in from elsewhere – or follow the fortunes of their club from even further afield – really know about traffic and parking issues around here? Judging by their comments on Twitter at least, their general approach seems to be ‘a new stadium at any cost and who cares what it might mean for local quality of life’.
As regards the stadium development proposals, this ‘community club’ has in fact paid scant regard to the community.
1. Club fails to keep community informed about its plans
‘The Council expects applicants to engage with the local community before submitting their applications.’
There has been minimal consultation with people living in the area. Residents were invited to a couple of pre-application exhibitions about plans for the Plough Lane site. Questionnaires asked limited and extremely skewed questions about residents’ opinions for the site.
Results of this consultation contained within the documentation put forward in AFC Wimbledon’s planning application are not an accurate representation of replies received. We know for a fact that some people who responded negatively have been left out of the documentation as per the maps presented as part of the planning application.
There has been no consultation with residents pre- or following submission of final plans to the borough council. We heard via the local newspaper that this application had been lodged.
2. Club shows disrespect to residents by lodging plans to coincide with Christmas period
This major planning application was lodged at such a time that a fortnight of the limited consultation period falls in the Christmas and New Year holiday weeks, with a further two weeks in the pre-Christmas period when people are more concerned with sorting out Christmas arrangements than paying attention to this issue. Moreover, the sheer scale of the application (many hundreds of pages of plans and written documents) makes it unlikely that most residents will know in detail what is being proposed for the site and the implications of it.
A ‘good time to bury bad news’, cynics might suggest. Very disappointing and not what you would expect from a self-confessed community club.
3. What about parents attending dance classes at the site?
AFC Wimbledon expects users of the on-site squash club and its facilities to cycle or use public transport. A worthy aim, but by failing to provide parking for users, the new plans are effectively reducing community use of this area of the site.
How so? As well as offering gym and squash facilities, the current Christopher’s Squash Club is also home to the very popular Dancebites school, which provides ballet, tap, streetdance etc classes for children (and young people/adults). Many parents rely on on-site parking to enable them to attend sessions with very young children. Without parking, as per the AFCW proposals, it must surely be almost impossible for this community function to continue.
Users of the squash and gym facilities who choose to arrive by car will inevitably use on-street parking nearby, thus causing a detriment to local residents: there will be greater competition for spaces in joint residents/pay-and-display parking zones, while post-6.30pm parking will become more difficult for residents in controlled zones.
This element of the planning application, rather than extending leisure opportunities on this site will therefore effectively reduce them, and cause a detriment to the local community.
4. Socio-economic benefits for local traders? Sorry, no.
The application includes plans for a ‘small-scale convenience store’. From a community point of view, locating a shop in this development is unnecessary as well as being detrimental to community and economic vitality in this area.
AFC Wimbledon supporters have always insisted that the redevelopment would boost socio-economic development locally. Well, wake up guys, we’re simply not seeing it that way.
The parade of shops at the north end of Haydons Road (just a few minutes walk from the new stadium development) desperately needs trade in order to thrive, and also requires on-street parking to attract passing trade. Guess what? AFC Wimbledon in fact proposes removing existing parking spots outside these shops to widen this section of Haydons Road for vehicles and ease the projected increase in traffic generated by this application, making it even more challenging for local traders to attract passing trade.
Building an on-site supermarket will strangle economic development in this location. Why not instead allow residents and football supporters to support the local community by shopping in local shops in the area: the Haydons Road parade, the existing small-scale convenience store on the corner of Summerstown and Garrett Lane, the small shops on the opposite corner of Garrett Lane and Summerstown, or at the petrol station just round the corner in Garrett Lane?
A new housing development creates an instant market for local businesses – this application ignores the opportunity to rejuvenate commerce and thus enhance our community facilities, instead parachuting in a solution to a problem that does not actually exist. AFC Wimbledon, we expected better of you.
5. Parking: knock-on effect will be felt over a wide area
Development proposals accept that residents will face increased competition for on-street parking, stating that finding a space will not be ‘as easy as before’. Well, with our local knowledge, we can reassure the applicants that there are ALREADY areas where bays close to the site are shared between residents and pay-and-display, where finding a parking space is ALREADY far from easy. These plans will make the situation far worse, reducing community amenity for residents. Elderly people and families with young children who need parking spaces close to their front doors will suffer particularly badly.
Streets further from the stadium will also come under increased pressure given that fans not travelling by public transport will be seeking to ‘park and walk’. Councillors in Abbey and Trinity wards, take note. Residents in Tooting and Wandsworth will also be affected. Pay and display and uncontrolled parking areas within a mile of the stadium in every direction will come under increased pressure when events take place. How will the community feel about that? AFC Wimbledon fails to give credence to community concerns across the wider area in its application.
6. Doctors and schools: surely the need for these gets a mention in the AFC application? Er, no.
Building 602 new housing units means a lot of new residents, including families, given that some homes have two and three bedrooms with associated outside play space and parking for up to two vehicles.
Merton is already stretched, especially in this area, for pre-school provision, primary and secondary school places. How will these extra numbers be absorbed by community facilities such as schools and GP surgeries? There is currently only one GP surgery in Wimbledon Park ward, which is threatened with closure. The next nearest surgery in Merton is in Princes Road, SW19 – also currently threatened with closure. If you’re planning to live in this new development, try not to get ill or need a school place, seems to be the message from AFC Wimbledon and their developer chums Galliard Homes.
Community club? Sorry, we’re just not seeing it.