Wimbledon row erupts as local residents raise concerns over extension plans
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Plans to increase Wimbledon’s capacity could be stopped after local residents complained over concerns about the extra traffic and noise it would create. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) submitted plans to Merton and Wandsworth councils in 2021, aiming to expand the SW19 site so it can hold 50,000 daily visitors, up from its current capacity of 42,000.
However, it’s estimated more than 4,700 ‘lorry movements’ would be required to shift the 54,000 cubic metres of soil that would need to be removed in order to complete the job. That’s without accounting for any additional construction required in order to upgrade the major’s facilities.
The Wimbledon Society—a volunteer-run group founded in 1903—wrote a letter to the council’s planning department, which read: “We believe the environmental impact of the soil movements and substantial increase in construction traffic has been dramatically underestimated by the planning documents.
“This serious underestimate casts doubt on the proposed timetable, as well as its environmental figures and calculations in this complex application. Without further clarity, the application should be rejected or withdrawn and further amended.”
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The AELTC’s plans cover 67 hectares and would create a walking link between Wimbledon Park railway station and Wimbledon Village. The blueprints also comprise a new route around Wimbledon Park Lake, which the AELTC hopes will “provide substantial public benefit to our local community.”
Wimbledon’s governing body is still reviewing the contents of the letter, which could force a rethink of the plans (or stop them altogether). The All England Club—of which the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is the patron—was formed in 1868 and held its first gentleman’s championship nine years later.
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“Therefore, central to our proposals is the creation of a new 9.4-hectare park that will open to the public previously private land, as well as a new boardwalk around Wimbledon Park Lake,” said the AELTC in an update, per London News Online. “We believe these benefits, alongside others such as an increase in biodiversity of the site and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come.”
Wimbledon organisers announced in July that this year’s tournament was attended by 515,164 spectators, edging the previous record of 511,043 set in 2009. However, this year’s tournament was aided by the fact there was an extra day’s play on the Middle Sunday, which is usually a day of rest.
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