10 May 2024

Wimbledon offers up more public land to get expansion over the line

8:46 am on 10 May 2024
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The All England Tennis Lawn Tennis Club wants to build 39 new courts. Photo: Shaun Brooks

The All England Lawn Tennis Club is offering up extra parkland for public use in a bid to get massive expansion plans over the line, which it says will protect the Wimbledon Championships for years to come.

The offer of an extra four acres of parkland, means the host of the world famous grass court Grand Slam event now plans to make some 27 acres of parkland accessible to the public.

The land had previously been part of a private members golf club, bought by the AELTC to enable development.

"I am delighted that ... we are now proposing even more green space for Londoners to enjoy, on land that has been inaccessible to the public for more than 100 years," All England chair Debbie Jevans said.

She added that the club had conducted some 100 tours of the proposed parkland and engaged with more than 7000 people as part of a consultation process.

"Our plans to transform the former Wimbledon Park Golf Course will deliver one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since the 2012 Olympics.

"We are committed to delivering significant social and environmental improvements, as well as creating hundreds of jobs and generating millions of pounds in economic benefits."

Opponents of the development say, however, that the club's plans will cause environmental damage, major disruption for the best part of a decade, and are unnecessarily ambitious in scale.

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Photo: Craig Mercer

Online petition

An online petition started by a group called Save Wimbledon Park has more than 18,000 signatures.

The group was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters, but concerns listed on its website include what it calls "Unacceptable Environmental Impact", fears that protected open space once built on could become completely developed, and that public access to the parkland could be withdrawn "as commercial priorities change."

Jevans rejected the notion that access to the land could be revoked by the club.

"We have been clear that access to the new parkland is offered permanently for the enjoyment of everyone. It is our sincere hope that these newly accessible spaces become treasured assets for people and nature to thrive," she told Reuters.

The club wants to expand its footprint on land it owns to build 39 new grass courts, including an 8000-seater show court, bring qualifying for one of the world's most recognised sports events on site, and secure the tournament's status at the top of the global sporting tree for years to come.

AELTC member and former world number four, Tim Henman, said: "Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that doesn't play its qualifying event on the same site as the main tournament.

"Transforming the former golf course to bring the qualifying event on site will provide world class facilities for the players and will enable more fans to get closer to the action, it really is a win-win."

Tim Henman competing at Wimbledon in 2007.

Tim Henman competing at Wimbledon in 2007. Photo: Paul Thomas/Sportsbeat Images

Wimbledon's plans got the green light from the London Borough of Merton last year, but part of Wimbledon Park, landscaped by 18th century English gardener Capability Brown, also stretches into Wandsworth Borough and that authority rejected the plans.

The decision was referred to the Greater London Authority (GLA) and deputy mayor of London Jules Pipe has taken on the responsibility for the application after mayor Sadiq Khan recused himself because of his public support of the plan three years ago.

The GLA has that a public consultation will now take place until 5 June, after which it will conduct a public hearing before making a decision.