Deputy mayor Jules Pipe calls in controversial scheme to treble the size of championship’s grounds after Wandsworth rejection

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Overhead view of the proposed expansion, with the new courts on the right of the image

City Hall has thrown Allies & Morrison’s stalled Wimbledon expansion plans a lifeline by taking control of the decision on whether to approve them.

Deputy mayor Jules Pipe called in the controversial planning application at a mayor’s planning committee meeting yesterday afternoon.

The move follows Wandsworth council’s rejection of the proposals, the biggest expansion in the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) history, in November due to concerns over the use of metropolitan open land on the site.

A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “This is a major planning application, of London-wide significance.

“Therefore, the deputy mayor has issued a direction under article 7 of the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order that he becomes the local planning authority for the purposes of determining the application. 

“A full planning hearing will be held in due course.”

Just 10% of the scheme’s 73-acre site is located in Wandsworth with the remaining 90% in Merton, which approved the plans in October, but consent from both councils was needed for the scheme to go ahead.

Following Wandsworth’s rejection, Merton referred the application to the Greater London Authority. Although the decision is officially under the remit of mayor of London Sadiq Khan, he has recused himself because he publicly expressed support for the plans in 2021.

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The proposals include an 8,000-seat show court

The scheme would treble the size of Wimbledon’s grounds, adding 38 new grass courts and an 8,000-seat show court on land east of the existing Centre Court and No.1 Court.

It would also allow the championships to stage qualifying rounds on its own grounds instead of at Roehampton. It is currently the only grand slam which is unable to host qualifying rounds on its own premises.

The AELTC has described the scheme as “one of the greatest sporting transformations for London since the 2012 Olympics”.

Organisers of the championships have argued that the expansion is necessary to stop Wimbledon falling behind the three other grand-slam tournaments, the Australian, French and US opens

The club has promised to create a new 23-acre public park in the style of Capability Brown, the original designer of the grade II*-listed Wimbledon Park.

But Wandsworth planning officers said the plans constitute “inappropriate development” and would cause “substantial harm to the openness” of the metropolitan open land.

More than 16,000 people have signed a petition to “save Wimbledon Park” and the two councils have received more than 2,000 objections to the scheme.