The Plough Lane area is a critical transport link within south west London, so you would expect any major planning proposal in this location to provide thorough, realistic analysis of its effects on public transport, road traffic and pedestrian movements. AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes have presented an 845-page transport document as part of their planning application, yet it fails to answer – or even address – some very basic issues.
How many people are likely to use the proposed new sports facilities?
AFC Wimbledon wants to build a stadium seating a crowd of 11,000 – 20,000. The impact of large numbers of supporters descending on this area, which has four main transport hubs: Earlsfield Station, Wimbledon Station, Tooting Broadway Underground Station and Haydons Road Railway station.
If large numbers of visitors to a football stadium in Plough Lane chose to arrive via Wimbledon town centre, there would be a considerable impact. Buses and pedestrian routes would come under severe pressure. Ditto from the Earlsfield and Tooting directions.
Haydons Road Station has very limited services – just a couple of trains in each direction an hour – and AFC Wimbledon’s plans state that large-scale congestion is envisaged along with a need for crowd control on matchdays to manage the influx of football supporters to its new stadium.
Similarly, it notes that huge numbers of fans leaving the stadium at the same time will cause traffic flow problems on Plough Lane, blithely suggesting that local roads be closed to vehicles while crowds dissipate, without bothering to investigate the implications. Anyone with knowledge of this area will know that Plough Lane, Haydons Road, Gap Road, Durnsford Road and Garrett Lane are critical arteries and any hold-up here leads to huge knock-on effects for traffic flow throughout the whole of south west London.
Plough Lane is also a critical transport artery for emergency vehicles heading to St George’s Hospital. Increasing traffic levels in the already jammed Plough Lane, Garrett Lane, Summerstown, Durnsford Road, Gap Road and Haydons Road area could cause critical delays for ambulances.
A report commissioned by Merton Council as long ago as 1996 concluded that it was not feasible to site a 20,000-seat stadium on the Plough Lane greyhound stadium site due to transport constraints. It estimated that a 10,000-seat might be possible, provided a dedicated tram line was extended to the site. Read the full report here. Are AFC Wimbledon and Galliards proposing this should happen? No.
It’s worth reading that 1996 report (from top planning consultancy RPS) in some detail. It was tasked with analysing the implications of a 30,000-seat stadium on the greyhound stadium site, as well looking at the feasibility of smaller facilities. On page 14 (paragraphs 3.30-3.34), RPS experts warned:
‘The transport analysis has indicated that 14,800 people will arrive at Wimbledon Station, assuming that the demand can be met.
‘The installation of a fixed tram link from Wimbledon Station to the stadium, running at a minimum headway of 6 minutes, would only have capacity of some 4,040 passengers per hour, so would be incapable of handling the number of spectators arriving at Wimbledon Station.
‘Similarly, some 4,400 spectators are expected to pass through Tooting Broadway Station. To transport these spectators to the stadium in an hour would require some 55 dedicated bus loads. Assuming the time to board, travel and alight was 15 minutes per load, an additional fleet of 14 buses would be required to run between Tooting Broadway and the stadium, plus the requisite terminal facilities at each end to cater for say 5 buses on a stand…
‘It is evident therefore that the development of a suitable transport package serving this potential development scenario of a multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 30,000 is non viable.’
The report also remarked that a small-capacity football/rugby stadium, that might suit this location better from a transport point of view, was unlikely to be economically viable.
That was almost 20 years ago; traffic on local roads in this area has greatly increased since 1996… Ouch!
Remember too that on-site parking will be extremely limited – football fans will be expected to arrive by organised coach, by public transport or on foot.
Separately, can AFC Wimbledon (which regularly attracts crowds of around 4,000) really afford to run a large-scale site without the crowds needed to finance it? Should AFC Wimbledon choose to boost its coffers by hiring out its stadium for other events – for example, concerts – then residents may have to endure additional evening or weekend traffic. That means competition for already limited on-street parking, noisy passers-by, litter and general disturbance.
This is a scenario that is not even mentioned in the AFC Wimbledon/Galliards proposal, but any planning department that failed to look at it as even a future possibility would surely be behaving with extreme irresponsibility.
What about parking for residents of the proposed 602 flats that Galliard wants to build to finance the football stadium build?
They propose to offer 297 on-site parking spaces. So where will everybody else park their cars? Kingsley Road, Havelock Road, Kohat Road, Gap Road, Haydons Park Road and Cromwell Road should brace themselves for increased levels of evening and weekend competition for parking spaces. Residents over the border in Wandsworth should be worried too: Earlsfield is likely to find itself under extreme pressure for on-street parking as well as Wimbledon.
The planning application also includes a gym for which there is no parking provision, and a supermarket with a Plough Lane frontage that again offers no parking places. It even wants to remove parking spaces from outside the parade of shops at the north end of Haydons Road ‘to ease traffic flow’.