Wimbledon Tennis club's land development plan angers residents

The All-England Lawn Tennis Club has outraged Wimbledon residents with plans to sell off playing fields for a multi-million-pound housing development in south London.

The club has applied for planning permission to build 72 homes on a 2ha site at Raynes Park Playing Fields that is currently leased to King's College School.

It explained that it was losing £150,000 a year on the sports facilities, which include six football or hockey pitches and two tennis courts.

Local residents have opposed the club's planning application to Merton Council - expected to be examined next month.

Local Conservative councillor Gilli Lewis-Lavender said: "We very much want to protect open, green land for recreational sports facilities.

"Just because playing fields are surplus to the club's requirements, it does not mean that we don't still need them for public use.

The All-England Lawn Tennis Club has hired Exeter-based consultancy PCL Planning to help make its application to the council.

It said that only one-fifth of the club's existing site would be developed for housing under the proposed scheme, and four football or hockey pitches and the tennis courts would remain. A new floodlit all-weather pitch would also be constructed on the site.

A representative for the All-England Lawn Tennis Club said: "The playing fields are surplus to the requirements of the club and are currently underutilised.

"The club does not want to maintain and manage an all-round sports facility because its focus is on tennis at Wimbledon. The club cannot continue to underwrite the significant losses it makes maintaining playing fields.

"We feel that this scheme offers the best balance to ensure that we keep the majority of the site as playing fields. There are always one or two - and it is their right to say so - who will not like it (the scheme), but hopefully it will satisfy most people."

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