Celebrities slam ‘ludicrous’ plans to expand Wimbledon tennis club

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Famous Wimbledon residents have voiced their opposition to “ludicrous” plans for an expansion of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

The renowned tennis club wants to expand into Wimbledon Park Golf Club under plans that would span 67 hectares between Wimbledon and Wandsworth.

The club said the proposals, which include an 8,000-seat show court, would bring “substantial public benefit” to the area.

A bird’s eye view of how the Wimbledon Tennis Club could look by 2028 (Picture: AELTC)

However, the idea was opposed by many locals, with almost 100 concerned residents logging on to an online meeting organised by the London branch of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) on Wednesday afternoon (November 2).

Alice Roberts, from CPRE, said the group was opposing the expansion into neighbouring Wimbledon Park.

The meeting also heard from 97-year-old actress Thelma Ruby, who has appeared in TV soap Coronation Street and a Dad’s Army remake.

She said: “My whole happiness depends on looking out at that view several times a day. Can you imagine they will dig up that turf and cut down trees?

“At 97, I am not going to live until it finishes. For the rest of my life, rather than this Capability Brown landscape, I will be looking out on a building site. I speak on behalf of the entire community, I know I do.”

Comedy writer Andy Hamilton, who has lived locally for more than 20 years, also spoke in objection to the plans. He said Wimbledon Park was a “vital community asset” where he took his kids to play for many years and where he spent a lot of time in the lockdown.

He said: “My concern is the scale of this development it is ludicrously large it is going to destruct that valuable community asset. It is going to create a decade of turmoil. My biggest concern is when works start, how do we know when it it will stop?

“Fundamentally their argument that Wimbledon needs to stay at the pinnacle of world tennis is ludicrous, there are no other lawn tennis competitions as prestigious as Wimbledon. What it is about is money, they are looking to generate revenue.

“What can we do? We can’t glue ourselves to Nick Kyrgios, but local activism is going to be very important.”

MP for Wimbledon, Stephen Hammond said the plans would alter the park “beyond recognition”.

A decision on the plans is yet to be made. An AELTC spokesman said: “The Wimbledon Park Project proposals were designed with two core objectives in mind: to maintain The Championships at the pinnacle of tennis and to provide substantial public benefit to our local community.

“Therefore, central to our proposals is the creation of a new 9.4-hectare park that will open to the public on previously private land, as well as a new boardwalk around Wimbledon Park lake.

“We believe these benefits, alongside others such as an increase in biodiversity, of the site and the planting of 1,500 trees, will provide a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come.”

Pictured top: Andy Hamilton and Thelma Ruby (Picture: PA)

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