A $250 million expansion plan from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club is in an even more fragile state after the London borough of Wandsworth voted against the proposal.
Confirming a recommendation from its planning officers, the borough’s council unanimously voted down the bid to build a new 8,000-seat stadium and 39 additional courts, finding that it would “cause substantial harm to the openness of metropolitan open land.”
The 7-0 vote followed nearly three hours of debate and prompted cheers from the public gallery.
AELTC CEO Sally Bolton called the decision “disappointing,” reiterating the organization’s view that the effort would be “one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since [the Olympics in] 2012.”
Wimbledon is the only one of tennis’s four Grand Slam tournaments that doesn’t hold its qualifying events on site — they’re held several miles away at a smaller, 2,000-capacity venue.
The latest ruling is a setback to expansion efforts after prior approval from the neighboring borough of Merton. The 73-acre site spans parts of both Merton and Wandsworth.
The matter now heads to the office of London mayor Sadiq Khan, with a decision expected by early December on whether to kill the proposal or review it further. That decision now rests with the deputy mayor for planning, Jules Pipe. Khan has personally recused himself following his prior support for the expansion effort.
“To use a tennis analogy, we’re at one-set-all, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Christopher Coombe, a member of Save Wimbledon Park, told the Guardian. “This is a five-set match with no tie-break.”
London appears to be reticent in letting sports and entertainment development take over its environs.