Londoners back £200m expansion for Wimbledon
Sami Quadri Debbie Jevans
FIVE times as many Londoners support Wimbledon’s £200 million expansion plan as oppose it, according to a poll.
The All England Club, which runs the Wimbledon Championships, wants to build 38 new grass courts and an 8,000-seater stadium on the former Wimbledon Park golf course to keep pace with other grand slam tournaments in New York, Paris and Melbourne.
But furious residents say the plans would leave the surrounding areas over-congested with traffic and have concerns about removing green spaces.
However, new research from YouGov has revealed that 58 per cent of London adults support the expansion compared to 11 per cent who oppose it. About half (49 per cent) of those surveyed said they supported the proposal because it will provide an economic boost for local businesses and create new jobs.
Meanwhile, 44 per cent of Londoners backed the plans because they see Wimbledon as a huge source of pride. Additionally, 38 per cent feel the project could help safeguard the future of the championships. Some 40 per cent of the 1,029 respondents to the survey, commissioned by the AELTC, supported the expansion because it offers the public access to new green spaces.
The expansion was approved in October by Merton council, where the majority of the development is set to take place.
But Wandsworth, on whose land five of the courts were to be built, voted against the proposals after concluding that there were not the necessary very special circumstances to outweigh harm and loss of Metropolitan Open Land.
The Greater London Authority is now expected to review the decision, paving the way for it to be overturned or given to Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove for a final ruling.
Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, said: “We firmly believe the Wimbledon Park Project offers significant social, economic and environmental improvements.”
The community ticket scheme for local residents will also be expanded, including free tickets for schools in Merton and Wandsworth.
WIMBLEDON is now the only Grand Slam that doesn’t host its qualifying competition on the same site as its main tournament.
Currently our qualifying competition takes place on what is ordinarily a cricket outfield at a rented site in Roehampton. This is understandably viewed by the world’s best players as a significant weakness.
With the AELTC Wimbledon Park Project we have a golden opportunity to address these issues, secure the future of the Championships whilst delivering year-round benefits for all Londoners.
We have designed a programme of development that not only provides world class facilities but will also dramatically improve leisure amenities in the local area.
The new public parkland that we will create will provide permanent access to 23 acres of green space that was formerly a private members’ golf course for more than 100 years. We’re also offering public use of at least seven of our championships courts following the conclusion of the tournament. A boardwalk around Wimbledon Park lake and £15 million worth of enhancements to the existing Wimbledon Park will see a thriving space for Londoners to enjoy. A recent poll by YouGov found that five times as many Londoners support Wimbledon’s expansion as opposed to those who are against it.
The Championships is the greatest contributor to the UK economy of any annual event in the sporting calendar. But it has the potential to deliver so much more. If our expansion plans are approved, by 2031 the total UK-wide economic activity figure is expected to increase by almost a third to £480 million and the projected annual benefit to London will be £296 million.
And yet, for us, our proposals are not about making money. As a not-for-profit organisation, 90 per cent of the profits from the Championships goes to the Lawn Tennis Association, breathing new life into grassroots tennis and facilities across the whole country.
We appreciate that there are some who don’t support our plans, but if we do not look to the future, we will fall behind and fail to grasp the wealth of benefits on offer to the whole of London.
Evening Standard Limited