This update contains the latest on the planning application, feedback from our meetings with local councillors and MPs and important news regarding the Council’s proposals for the new Southwark Plan consultation which includes proposals for Champion Hill which are not currently in the best interests for the future of our Club and requires your help.
Planning Application & Section 106 Appeal
Back in February we asked supporters to write to the Planning Inspectorate in support of the application. We would like to say thank you to everyone who wrote in and responded to make comments. You can view our response here and the rest of the responses here.
The Council have issued their statement of case which can be viewed here and sets out the reasons for why they feel the development is not appropriate. Over the coming months and in the run up to the appeal inquiry both sides will be preparing their evidence and supporting statements.
The date of the appeal inquiry has been set for 12 December 2017 and will be heard at Southwark Council’s offices in Tooley St, London. It is estimated that the inquiry will run over 8 days with a date for the decision to be advised. The Trust are intending to appear as a third party witness at the appeal. As soon as we have further details we will update supporters.
Meetings to discuss the Club and planning proposals
Off the back of our ‘Support our Stadium’ campaign and following letters to many political and planning-related figures at Southwark Council, the Trust held some important and worthwhile meetings with local ward councillors, planning department members and MPs in relation to the proposed development and to highlight the great work that the Club does in the local community and beyond.
At the end of March we met with London Assembly member for Lambeth & Southwark, Florence Eshalomi who was very supportive of the Club and keen to help. In April we met with the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, Helen Hayes who was again, very supportive of the Club and, as a planning professional, understanding of the challenges faced by both parties. Also in April and at the suggestion of Southwark Chief Executive, Eleanor Kelly, we had a meeting at Southwark Council’s offices in Tooley Street with several members of Southwark’s Cabinet including Leader of the Council and local ward councillor, Peter John, Cabinet members Mark Williams and Ian Wingfield, Director of Planning – Simon Bevan, local ward councillor – Sarah King and Sue Drummond (parks). We’ve been trying to hold a meeting with some of the attendees for some time so it was good to finally sit down face to face and understand their thoughts on both the Club and proposals.
We discussed a number of points including the new stadium development, the Club’s charity and awareness raising work, the New Southwark Plan consultation and the renewal of the lease on Green Dale. Overall the response was supportive of the Club and the work we do with an acknowledgement that the Club is an important part of the community. The Council acknowledged that there were some drafting errors in the New Southwark Plan site allocation and that the exclusion of the Club’s ancillary facilities was something which would be considered further. The Council raised concerns over a number of areas in the planning application that require further work to satisfy them however, as the decision to determine the application now rests with the Planning Inspectorate rather than the Council they will be restricted to submitting their comments as part of their evidence to the Planning Inspectorate. It also was refreshing to hear positive words on the renewal of the Greendale lease agreement with the Council understanding the need to provide security of tenure for the Club and open to discussing a longer lease of at 99 years or more.
New Southwark Plan – Area Visions and Site Allocations
Southwark Council are in the process of drafting new site allocations and area visions for the New Southwark Plan. Included within this was an allocation for the existing Champion Hill stadium site including the land around the stadium (car wash, car park) and the land on which the stadium buildings sit (health club, bar, changing rooms etc.) but specifically excluding the football pitch. The important bit here is that development of all land except the pitch means that the Club would have to function without any of the basic ancillary elements (turnstiles, stands, bar, changing rooms) that are essential to be able to function at even a basic level of football let alone one at Isthmian level or above. Whilst we welcome the inclusion of the Champion Hill site in the proposals (in the sense that there is an understanding from the Council that the site can be redeveloped in the future), the current proposals do not have sufficient consideration for the Football Club and its ability to function properly. The Trust have made their concerns known to the Council along with numerous responses from our members and supporters of the Club. We are hopeful that this will have the desired effect of changing the site allocation strategy to suit the best interests of the Football Club.