Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association response to Paschal Taggart’s revised greyhound stadium proposals
The WPRA welcomes the revised plans of Hamilton Architects, commissioned by Paschal Taggart, for the redevelopment of the Greyhound Stadium in Plough Lane. We are pleased that they have taken note of site restrictions concerning transport and flooding, highlighted by the recent RPS report commissioned by WRPA, and have scaled down their development proposals accordingly. The number of spectators has been reduced from 4,500 to a maximum of 3,000, allaying the Associations transport concerns. Indeed, the average number of visitors under this revised scheme is on a par with the current number of visitors to the Greyhound Stadium; a situation which residents are already accustomed to due to the many years dog racing has taken place on this site.
The new plans also reduce the number of residential units from 550 to 230. This, along with the ability to store surface water in the centre of the Greyhound Stadium, will significantly increase the chances of the revised scheme being compatible with the category 3b (highest risk) floodplain assessment of this site by the Environment Agency. It is worth noting that a substantial reduction in housing provision on-site also puts less pressure on future demand for school places in this part of the borough.
The WPRA also welcomes the provision of space for community facilities including a doctor’s surgery, schooling, gym and fitness facilities as well as extensive areas of green space.We believe these revised and reduced plans for the stadium site in Plough Lane would create a new development that would enhance the area, benefiting local residents and businesses. They would also meet Merton Borough Councils goal of sporting intensification for the site.
The WPRA commissioned the RPS report to examine initial (pre-planning) development proposals from both Hume Consulting and AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes to establish whether they addressed issues specific to this site. The report concluded that the proposals for the Plough Lane Greyhound Stadium put forward by AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes were not compatible with planning guidelines, and considered that it would be difficult to modify them in order to meet statutory requirements for traffic, transportation and flood risk in the area. This backed up the conclusions of the WPRA, which considered that proposals from both parties were of a scale that was inappropriate for the site.
We await the presentation of revised plans from AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes for this site, should they intend to pursue their intention to redevelop the Greyhound Stadium, and hope that they will reflect expert recommendations on flooding, traffic and transportation issues.
The WPRA has never opposed AFC Wimbledon’s quest to find a permanent home in the borough, but we do not believe that the Greyhound Stadium is a suitable location for the scale of development that has been proposed. Neither are we apologists for the sport of greyhound racing. As a residents organisation, our wish is to ensure that whatever development takes place on the Plough Lane site serves to enhance rather than blight the lives of people who live in the neighbourhood, as well as meets national planning guidelines, which exist to ensure that projects of this scale will be acceptable to local residents, shops and businesses and not blight the surrounding area. It is worth noting that the WPRA undertook a number of steps before reaching its view on the two proposals for Plough Lane that have been put forward so far, namely:
- Our members have carefully studied national planning guidelines and presented a case to the planning inspector for this site.
- We carried out a randomised and statistically significant survey in streets close to Plough Lane which showed that 80% thought a large-scale football stadium was not beneficial, 70% opposed it and only 10% supported it. This was at a time when local residents had been provided with absolutely no information about Merton Borough Councils intentions for the site.
- We commissioned one of the UK’s leading planning consultants RPS to examine the two proposals.
The RPS report and previous documents written by the WPRA can be found at
PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY WIMBLEDON PARK RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION
SUBJECT: PLOUGH LANE STADIUM REDEVELOPMENT
DATE: SEPTEMBER, 2014
Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium football plans kicked into touch by flood, transport risks
Flooding, traffic and transport would be major issues if current plans to build a football stadium for AFC Wimbledon plus 600 homes in Plough Lane go ahead, according to one of the UK’s leading consultancies providing advice on all aspects of planning.
The consultancy firm RPS was commissioned by Wimbledon Park Residents Association (WPRA) to evaluate development proposals for the site from the two parties that have so far shown an interest in regenerating the historic Greyhound Stadium.
According to the report’s executive summary: ‘RPS cannot see how at present this scheme can overcome and address flooding constraints; in fact, it appears at this stage of their [AFC/Galliard Homes] design process that this scheme will significantly exacerbate flooding in the area.’
It adds: ‘There are significant concerns regarding the large capacity and high density proposals of the AFC/Galliard scheme including limited parking facilities on site, lack of facilities for coaches, demand for on-street parking and large surges in public transport demand associated with a 20,000 capacity stadium.’
The Plough Lane site has previously been determined to be a 3b category (highest risk) flood plain, with most of the area sitting within a critical drainage area for surface water flooding, and graded 2/3 for accessibility to public transport (where 1a is very poor and 6 is excellent) which is difficult to improve.
The Greyhound Stadium, which has stood on its current site since 1928 and is London’s last remaining greyhound racing stadium, has been designated by Merton Borough Council as suitable for ‘intensification of sporting interest with supporting enabling development’.
Two proposals to develop the site have emerged:
- AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes propose building a new 20,000-seat football stadium (to be erected in stages) with 600 dwellings and ancillary facilities.
- Hume Consulting propose building a new 4,500-seat greyhound stadium with 550 dwellings and ancillary facilities.
RPS consultants carried out a comparative assessment of both proposals, neither of which have yet been submitted as planning applications.
It concludes: ‘The assessment and comparisons highlight the weaknesses in the AFC proposals to address these [sustainable development principles for transport, road network, drainage and flood risk] local and national requirements. The greyhound stadium is therefore considered a more sustainable and robust proposal at this stage of development.’
This assessment is in broad agreement with the planning objections put forward by WPRA during Merton’s consultation period on the site. The RPS conclusions are also in line with a 1996 report commissioned by Merton Borough Council into the feasibility of a 20,000 football stadium in Plough Lane, which found the site was not appropriate for such a development unless a purpose-built tram link to Wimbledon town centre was constructed. Traffic levels have very significantly increased since then.
A recent statistically significant survey carried out in Wimbledon Park ward by the WPRA found that 80% of residents thought the AFC/Galliard Homes proposal was not very beneficial for local residents, with only 8% thinking it was beneficial. Furthermore, 72% opposed it and only 10% supported it.
WPRA says: ‘The Greyhound Stadium in Wimbledon Park Ward has become neglected and needs redeveloping. The RPS report and the results of the survey confirm the strong support of the WPRA for the construction of a new greyhound stadium of international standing as proposed by Hume Consulting.’
‘We believe that this proposal can be refined to be consistent with planning considerations and that it will enhance life for the residents of Merton by injecting life back into this site, and maintain the long heritage of greyhound racing in Merton dating back almost a century. The RPS report supports our belief that greyhound racing would be a much less intrusive activity for this neighbourhood.’
‘We note that Hume Consulting is led by Paschal Taggart, former Chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, who has built and successfully run a number of greyhound stadiums in Ireland, and says he wants to make Wimbledon the ‘Royal Ascot’ of dog racing.’
‘The WPRA does not oppose AFC Wimbledon’s plans to seek new grounds in Merton but we are convinced that the greyhound stadium in Plough Lane is not the right site for their return to the borough.’
Copies of the full report and the executive summary can be found on the WPRA website www.wimbledonpark.com
RPS (rpsgroup.com) is one of the world’s leading multi-disciplinary consultancies providing advice on the built and natural environment, with previous projects including Westfield Stratford, Hampden Fields Aylesbury, Stansted Airport and Heathrow Terminal 5.
The report was prepared by independent consultants RPS for the Wimbledon Park Residents Association and Hume Consulting.
Contact: Iain Simpson, Chairman of the Wimbledon Park Residents Association via email at email@example.com
The Comparative Assessment (full report) and Executive Summary are available below to download.
There has been some form of Residents’ Association in Wimbledon Park since 1906. It provides a forum for discussing important local issues and a platform for action. Since it’s inception, the Residents’ Association has helped hundreds, probably thousands of local residents, irrespective of religion, race or creed who have turned to the committee for guidance and support.
We regularly check local planning applications and have been very successful in opposing unsuitable developments. We promote planting and improvements in local parks and green areas. We work with the local police to help you to fight crime in your street and keep you informed by publishing the crime statistics in our newsletter.
We have led the initiative to redevelop Wimbledon Park Hall – so that once again we can have our own community centre. We have put on fairs and shows and supported numerous local campaigns, individuals and families faced with tragedy.
The Residents’ Association has given the Wimbledon Park Community a solid and respected voice when dealing with Merton Council. An individual can achieve only so much, but as a team we can and do achieve so much more.
This area is growing and improving all the time. Your Residents’ Association is more active than ever and we are happy to put in time and effort on your behalf.
But we cannot function without funds. We did extremely well financially from the three Edwardian Fairs we ran in past years but that money has been put aside for the running of the new Hall – now almost ready for use.
We need you to support your local Residents’ Association ideally for 3 years, which is only £12. Twelve pounds for a 3 year period will help us pay for printing and stationery to publish this newsletter, computer and IT software to run the website, materials and equipment to organise events and keep the flowerboxes blooming in Arthur Road. You can download the application form here.