All to play for in battle for Plough Lane between AFC Wimbledon and greyhound racing, inspector rules (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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All to play for in battle for Plough Lane between AFC Wimbledon and greyhound racing, inspector rules
It is all to play for between the greyhound and AFC Wimbledon bids after an inspector said the Plough Lane site would be suitable for either sport.
After months of deliberation, an independent inspector has deemed the controversial Wimbledon site suitable for both greyhound racing and football, leaving it for Merton Council’s planning committee to decide.
AFC Wimbledon has said it is delighted by the result, whereas greyhound supporters remain stoic as the hard work is not yet over for either side.
The future of the site has been mired in controversy as both AFC Wimbledon and supporters of greyhound racing, which is currently housed at the stadium, have been battling it out to make the historic venue their home in Wimbledon.
Merton Council leader Stephen Alambritis said he is pleased inspector Robert Yuille has agreed with the council over the suitability of the location for ‘sporting intensification’ after months of speculation.
Coun Alambritis said: "We are pleased the inspector has gone with us for the greyhound stadium.
"It is right for sporting intensification.
"Planning permission will be given for flats, the number of them is to be decided. "It is all to play for for any sport."
Counc Alambritis emphasised the need for both sides to fully consult with residents.
Inspector Robert Yuille heard arguments from all sides about the suitability of each sport, plus ideas on retail and residential use at a hearing in late January this year, as part of a review of Merton Council Sites and Policies Local Plan.
AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson said he was delighted with the inspector’s conclusion.
Mr Samuelson said: "We can now move to the next stage of the process.
"There’s still a long way to go and a lot of hard work to be done but this is a significant moment in our plans to return to Wimbledon."
Greyhound supporter Diane McLean, of the We Want Wimbledon group, said: "I am not excited by the result; it is not anything new as far as we’re concerned.
"Things are underway - if the football think they can railroad through they are mistaken.
Ms McLean said they will put in a planning application to the council in due course and it will quite rightly be scrutinised by the public and the council.
AFC Wimbledon will hold a number of public consultations this summer on dates to be announced.
In the report, the inspector said: "Time will tell whether either of these schemes is viable or suitable on this site.
"I see no compelling planning reason at this time why the Plan, which at present allows for either, should seek, in effect, to favour one rather than the other.
"I do not, therefore, consider it necessary for the Plan to specify that a greyhound stadium should be retained on the site."
Irish business man Paschal Taggart's £60m plans for the stadium feature a new world class squash club with seven courts, a four tier 4,500 capacity greyhound racing stadium, supermarket and residential apartments as well as a multi storey car park, medical centre, dance studio and gymnasium.
If AFC Wimbledon win the bid, the club would build a mixed use development featuring a 22,000 capacity stadium, starting at 12,000, 500 residential apartments, a hotel, education and retail space and an intention to replace the squash courts and gym at Christopher’s Squash Club.
The Planning Inspectorate’s report on the examination into Merton Sites and Policies Local Plan was published on Wednesday, June 4.
It will be discussed at a council meeting on Wednesday, July 9 in the Civic Offices in Morden.
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