On Monday, planning officers recommended Merton Council’s planning committee grant permission for an 8,000-seat show court and 38 further grass courts at the former Wimbledon Park Golf Course.
But activists say they are “ready for the next phase of the fight” in what is expected to continue to be a protracted dispute.
Merton councilors will vote on the proposal at a meeting on Thursday evening, October 26, with Wandsworth Town Council, whose boundaries include part of the site, also deciding on it next month.
The matter would then be referred to London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Greater London Authority, dealing not only with planning but also with agreements regarding the location and legality of the expansion project.
Following the planning recommendation, Iain Simpson, chairman of Save Wimbledon Park, said: “We are disappointed by the report but not surprised. “We believe that in the long term common sense will prevail because all the objections we have raised in the report that have been raised over the last two and a half years are justified.
“To say that there will be ‘no significant adverse impact’ is extraordinary when one plans to raze and pillage most of what is supposed to be a 75 hectare area, despite it being a prime area of county importance to the Nature conservation acts.”
“This is a planning assessment only and separate approval is required to clarify ownership and rights before any development can or will go ahead. This is just the beginning and we are ready for the next phase of the fight.”
There are a variety of objections, ranging from the environmental impact to fears that the proposed tournament venue could be used for events outside of the Wimbledon fortnight.
Added to this is the complexity of arrangements surrounding a 1993 agreement between Merton Council and the All England Club to retain the area as open space.
Planning officials’ recommendation is a blow to opponents, who have likened it to a “David versus Goliath” battle.
But Merton councilor Paul Kohler, who is running to become Wimbledon’s next MP, said: “People expected this. The fight is not over yet. We will keep fighting. You can still beat the big guys.”
As part of the proposals, Wimbledon is recommended to spend £8.5 million on “improving Wimbledon Park in terms of heritage, leisure activities and amenities” and open at least seven of the new pitches to the public from mid-July to mid-September.
Following the recommendation, an All England Club spokesman said: “We are pleased that London Borough of Merton planning officers have recommended the AELTC Wimbledon Park project for approval.” Our plans will be approved by members of the planning committee on October 26th “The Council has considered this and we hope they will feel able to support the positive recommendations made by the officers.”