A vital vote on the future of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club and its new stadium plans will take place on July 27.
Southwark town hall planners will decide at a 6.45pm meeting whether to approve the club’s controversial 230-flat development which also features a new 4,000-seat stadium.
Meadow Residential (MR), the latest builders to invest in owning the club, want to secure space for a lucrative multi-million pound housing project on the current pitch.
The firm’s current plan includes shifting Hamlet’s ground onto the next-door Greendale Open Space – and it is this joint venture which Southwark council’s planning committee will debate on July 27. Planning officers at the town hall have recommended approval.
The Champion Hill side have come within a whisker of closure on at least two occasions in the last four years – the latest when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the last 10 games of the season. Before that, MR had turfed the club out of their ground in 2018 and threatened to seize its name and badge.
The decision by the National League to end the campaign prematurely saved Dulwich having to pay out wages for two months without any income from gates.
But the huge number of homes MR want to build may be a stumbling block for local councillors. Greendale, on which the club has a decaying astroturf pitch, is also Metropolitan Open Land, which meant similar plans by Sainsbury to build there in 1999 were blocked at a public inquiry.
A joint statement from the club and the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust said: “This is the moment our fans have fought long and hard to see happen, to secure the long term future and objectives that can only be delivered by this scheme – allowing the club to remain owned by its fans and stay in the heart of its community.
“We go into this committee on the back of continued and overwhelming support from our fans and the local community and the club would like to thank everyone for their support over the years, both in keeping the club going and demonstrating their backing for the plans.
“Without you all, the corner could never have been turned and we hope the committee will approve the application and allow the club to continue in its new direction, adding sporting provision and facilities in Southwark to the work we already do in the community.
“The club and the trust are respectful of the fact that there has been some local opposition to the scheme primarily due to the renovation and enclosure of our derelict astro turf pitch but, after long and careful consideration of that and all other factors, the planning officers at London Borough of Southwark have recommended that the application should be approved.
“We believe it is important to listen to different views and opinions before conclusions are reached and it was encouraging to see not only that the council’s process allowed everyone to have a voice, but also the vast majority were in favour of the plans.
“We would like to thank all of you who have asked for updates, since the application was submitted, for your patience but it was important to invest the time required to address every concern and idea raised.
“We have been committed to engaging positively with all stakeholders to deliver the best possible scheme, which means the application that will be presented is submitted both with the support of the community and the positive recommendations from the council and other consulting authorities.”
Developer Meadow Residential had applied to build 150 flats on the Champion Hill stadium site – which is currently protected by a covenant. When Southwark council threatened to issue a compulsory purchase last year to seize the land, Meadow retaliated with an even bigger scheme with more than 220 apartments.
Meadow, having cut off players’ wages and turfed the club out of Champion Hill, then agreed to its return in December 2018 and to donate £50,000 to the club to ease its financial problems.
Campaign for the Preservatrion of Rural England head of green space campaigns, Alice Roberts, wrote to London Mayor Sadiq Khan in January about the plans, saying: “The redevelopment of the stadium should not be at the expense of much-used and valued natural open space, including a well-used community football pitch.”
The joint planning application was submitted in June 2019.
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