Controversial Wimbledon expansion plans approved by Council despite protests from local residents

Wimbledon's controversial expansion plans have received approval from Merton Council despite protests from campaigners and local residents regarding the land being protected.

The proposals include a new show court with a capacity for 8,000 spectators, as well as 38 other courts. This would see the overall capacity of the grasscourt major rise from 42,000 to 50,000 and would mean that the qualifying tournaments could be held at the same venue rather than a few miles away in Roehampton.

The meeting of the Merton Council planning committee was held yesterday, Thursday, October 27, and went on for nearly five hours before councillors approved the plan with six votes to four.

Campaigners fear environmental impact

While the meeting was taking place at Merton Civic Centre, protesters gathered outside and chanted "trees, not tennis", voicing the campaigners' concerns about the impact on the local environment and protected habitats that the expansion plans could have.

The area that has been approved for the expansion is supposed to remain protected as an area of landscape, recreation, nature conservation, and scientific interest. Moreover, a petition called "Save Wimbledon Park" has received over 13,000 signatures.

The MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond spoke out against the decision, saying it undermines "every recommendation" on Metropolitan Open Land - which is a form of protection for green spaces in London.

"If you read the officers’ report, there’s a whole chunk of it which effectively says this offends every planning policy and then says because there are very special circumstances we’re going to let it through," he said.

Indeed, Merton Council's planning officers released a 450-page report in which it admitted that the development was "inappropriate" and would cause "physical harm" to the land, but added that this was outweighed by "very substantial public benefits" which allowed for "very special circumstances" in this case.

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