Expert opinion

Consultants RPS took a look at pre-planning proposals from the two camps which have so far shown an interest in developing the greyhound stadium site in Plough Lane, to assess whether in their current form they would address critical issues. Their conclusions were as follows:

(Text taken from the Wimbledon Park Residents Association website, September 2014)

Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium football plans kicked into touch by flood, transport risks

Flooding, traffic and transport would be major issues if current plans to build a football stadium for AFC Wimbledon plus 600 homes in Plough Lane go ahead, according to one of the UK’s leading consultancies providing advice on all aspects of planning.

The consultancy firm RPS was commissioned by Wimbledon Park Residents Association (WPRA) to evaluate development proposals for the site from the two parties that have so far shown an interest in regenerating the historic Greyhound Stadium.

According to the report’s executive summary: ‘RPS cannot see how at present this scheme can overcome and address flooding constraints; in fact, it appears at this stage of their [AFC/Galliard Homes] design process that this scheme will significantly exacerbate flooding in the area.’

It adds: ‘There are significant concerns regarding the large capacity and high density proposals of the AFC/Galliard scheme including limited parking facilities on site, lack of facilities for coaches, demand for on-street parking and large surges in public transport demand associated with a 20,000 capacity stadium.’

The Plough Lane site has previously been determined to be a 3b category (highest risk) flood plain, with most of the area sitting within a critical drainage area for surface water flooding, and graded 2/3 for accessibility to public transport (where 1a is very poor and 6 is excellent) which is difficult to improve.

The Greyhound Stadium, which has stood on its current site since 1928 and is London’s last remaining greyhound racing stadium, has been designated by Merton Borough Council as suitable for ‘intensification of sporting interest with supporting enabling development’.

Two proposals to develop the site have emerged:

  1. AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes propose building a new 20,000-seat football stadium (to be erected in stages) with 600 dwellings and ancillary facilities.
  2. Hume Consulting propose building a new 4,500-seat greyhound stadium with 550 dwellings and ancillary facilities.

RPS consultants carried out a comparative assessment of both proposals, neither of which have yet been submitted as planning applications.

It concludes: ‘The assessment and comparisons highlight the weaknesses in the AFC proposals to address these [sustainable development principles for transport, road network, drainage and flood risk] local and national requirements. The greyhound stadium is therefore considered a more sustainable and robust proposal at this stage of development.’

This assessment is in broad agreement with the planning objections put forward by WPRA during Merton’s consultation period on the site. The RPS conclusions are also in line with a 1996 report commissioned by Merton Borough Council into the feasibility of a 20,000 football stadium in Plough Lane, which found the site was not appropriate for such a development unless a purpose-built tram link to Wimbledon town centre was constructed. Traffic levels have very significantly increased since then.

A recent statistically significant survey carried out in Wimbledon Park ward by the WPRA found that 80% of residents thought the AFC/Galliard Homes proposal was not very beneficial for local residents, with only 8% thinking it was beneficial. Furthermore, 72% opposed it and only 10% supported it.

WPRA says: ‘The Greyhound Stadium in Wimbledon Park Ward has become neglected and needs redeveloping. The RPS report and the results of the survey confirm the strong support of the WPRA for the construction of a new greyhound stadium of international standing as proposed by Hume Consulting.’

‘We believe that this proposal can be refined to be consistent with planning considerations and that it will enhance life for the residents of Merton by injecting life back into this site, and maintain the long heritage of greyhound racing in Merton dating back almost a century. The RPS report supports our belief that greyhound racing would be a much less intrusive activity for this neighbourhood.’

‘We note that Hume Consulting is led by Paschal Taggart, former Chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, who has built and successfully run a number of greyhound stadiums in Ireland, and says he wants to make Wimbledon the ‘Royal Ascot’ of dog racing.’

‘The WPRA does not oppose AFC Wimbledon’s plans to seek new grounds in Merton but we are convinced that the greyhound stadium in Plough Lane is not the right site for their return to the borough.’

Copies of the full report and the executive summary can be found on the WPRA website www.wimbledonpark.com

RPS (rpsgroup.com) is one of the world’s leading multi-disciplinary consultancies providing advice on the built and natural environment, with previous projects including Westfield Stratford, Hampden Fields Aylesbury, Stansted Airport and Heathrow Terminal 5.

The report was prepared by independent consultants RPS for the Wimbledon Park Residents Association and Hume Consulting.