Yes We Khan

It’s taken six months longer than it should have done, but as of today, we’re a big step closer to Plough Lane.

It almost seemed inevitable when Sadiq Khan called for one final consultation before handing back NPL to Merton, but you can now see why sites like this and the club itself were pushing to get the petition signed.

Nearly 8000 people wrote in support of NPL, and perhaps more tellingly only 594 were against it – which one presumes has to also include stock car racers and the doggers.

And is directly proportional to those who support them on social media.

We now await the next stage, which may involve the Secretary of State but according to those who know these sort of things is unlikely. It’s time for final planning permission and the section 106s to be signed, which is when it starts getting properly real.

But that’s to look forward to. Words we haven’t been able to say for a little while re: NPL. For now, let’s delve into what the report says…

The comments in favour of NPL are pretty much what we’ve said all along. Going through a major consultation, with planners from three different factions approving it, makes the whole thing feasible.

Again, nobody will properly know why Boris Johnson had one of his usual brainfarts, although one suspects he was doing his mates at Wandsworth Council a favour**.

** – since then, Khan has become Mayor instead of Zac whatshisname, Labour have taken the Merton/Wandsworth GLA seat when it should have remained blue, and the anti-NPL candidate for the by-election in Tooting got gubbed. Did somebody say “backfiring”…?

There’s the usual stuff about going home, but one thing I didn’t know what the effect this delay was having on the current squash club:

Delay and uncertainty caused by the previous Mayor’s decision to call in the application has had a disastrous impact on Christopher’s Squash and Fitness Club as many members left anticipating closure. Club has now been left in limbo.

To be honest, I’m not sure how they would have kept going when the project was getting built anyway. They don’t seem to have any other courts elsewhere, and it would be ironic if they became one of the big casualties of this delay.

The rest of it in support is pretty standard, but we get onto the arguments against it. Which is almost as enjoyable to go through as the final decision of Khan.

Some of it is valid, most of it is scaremongering and some belongs in the Fiction department rather than a legal document. Like this:

Merton Council’s decision was pre-determined. Merton is not neutral in this case. The Leader is AFC Wimbledon supporter and officers acted as advocates for the football club. It would be perverse to let Merton determine case when it clearly has a political interest

Leaving aside the dodgy legal aspect of suggesting LBM has no integrity in its decision making, how does one prove “pre-determined” anyway?

LBM are supportive, and last time I looked that’s no crime for any local council, but for it to be pre-determined it would have to ignore planning laws, recommendations, and just about every bit of expert advice going.

Unless you really think they are all on AFCW’s metaphoric payroll. If you do, I have a 9/11 conspiracy theory to sell you – it comes free with a whole roll of Bacofoil…

Did this come from “concerned local residents”, or was this a Wandsworth Council line of attack? The latter has form on this, after all, although one wouldn’t be surprised to find out if there was some kind of co-ordination going on.

Having been involved with projects this scale in a previous life, the amount of scrutiny for NPL has been very high – and I think we’ve always had this in mind when planning it.

Some basic fact-checking is clearly lacking, like calling Steven Alambritis an AFCW fan – he’s not, he supports Fulham.

There’s more – the usual “intimidation” quote comes up. This is a classic diversionary tactic used in politics since the old King was alive, and yes it is designed to discredit us.

Needless to say, you won’t need to look very hard to see it aimed at AFCW fans. Some of the meathead doggers have threatened to lift their knuckles higher than the floor, and a couple of the anti-NPL residents have been outright vile.

But then, in their mind only football fans can be thuggish.

Other than that, it’s the usual “residents concerns were ignored” stuff. I am surprised that Lidl at PL were against it, though once their profits start rising…

There’s the usual stuff from the doggers and the stock car racers. Sadly, there aren’t enough hours in the day to totally deconstruct their arguments, but they still continued to make one fatal mistake.

Once NAMA (the ultimate owners of NPL) gave their backing to AFCW, greyhounds and stockcars were fucked.

After that it didn’t matter what they said or did, because then it becomes a private matter of land use. Neither LBM or the GLA could order them to keep dog racing, even Boris Johnson said so in his infamous intervention.

And Galliard etc simply have no use for this “sport” any more. Why would they? If nothing else, they have long memories of Walthamstow, of Catford, and (while I don’t think they owned it) Hackney.

It’s worth reading up about Hackney if you’ve got a spare few moments, especially the bits about the buyers who never came to fruition. It seems remarkably familiar, and would hint at what would really happen if it wasn’t us going for it.

Nobody came in to “save” Walthamstow and Catford either, and it’s reached its natural conclusion with WGS. Of course, you can ask why all these tracks have gone, but you’re not going to get an answer from the doggers.

And Taggart’s conduct just shows at least part of why. Too much talking the good game, but far too much failing to deliver. His “proposals” summed them up – hot air but no hard proposals.

Anyway, they still have Romford and Crayford. For now, anyway.

Speaking of the self-styled greyhound mogul (and grade A langer), isn’t it gratifying to see his blustering finally catching up with him? Witness the submission he made:

Writes to object to the current application and to make the Mayor aw are of his alternative plans for redevelopment of the greyhound stadium with 264 affordable homes (50%). Asserts that the scheme to provide a football stadium is not financially viable as evidenced by the applicant’s need to reduce affordable housing from 50% to 9.6%, and therefore the scheme should be rejected as inappropriate. Approval of the application would lead to unacceptable development on an active floodplain. Approval of the application would lead to loss of greyhound racing, which is part of Lon don’s diverse cultural heritage. The local infrastructure cannot contend with 20,000 football supporters arriving at the site. His alternative proposal is for 3,000 seat greyhound stadium, as well as a 555-space multi-storey car park used for resident parking and parking for St George’s Hospital. Merton failed to acknowledge impact of proposals on Lidl store. Owners of site have history of buying greyhound tracks and seeking to redevelop them

With the reply from people who actually know what they’re doing:

Regarding the alternative plans by Pascal Taggart, officers understand that a pre-planning request has been registered with Merton Council but a meeting has not yet been held, and no pre-application requests have been formally submitted to the GLA. No planning application has been made for the alternative proposals. In any case, even if an alternative scheme had been submitted and granted planning permission, this could not influence the outcome of the current case, as each application must be considered on its own merits and planning authorities could not decline to determine one case in favour of another

Taggart’s biggest skill was to convince greyhound fans, media and other such supporters that he had as much of a plan as he did. Clearly none of them had the wit to delve deeper, but then I get the impression you have to toe the party line in dog racing.

One final thing about the current tenants of the site, that also contributed to their downfall – it doesn’t matter whether dog racing takes place in London or not.

It’s simply not that kind of “sport”. It could be held on the Isle of Wight and the average punter in the bookies won’t really care.

See, it assumed that it had a divine right to exist in London, when it didn’t. Certain sports don’t do well in the capital – rugby league, for example.

And if you consider that 8.5m or so live in London, then very, very, very few of them watch canines scarper around a track chasing a fake hare…

Finally in regards to this report, the residents associations. Annoying in the extreme, but ironically our biggest helps.

There were, and are, legitimate concerns about a project this size, but they often went from being “concerned local residents” with genuine gripes to textbook NIMBYs.

Take what the WPRA submitted…

The WRPA raise objections to the application and the proposal to allow Merton to determine the application. The group argues that there is evidence of pre-determination from Merton from the beginning of the process.

Funny how three sets of planning legal teams failed to spot this evidence. It would be far too cynical to suggest it doesn’t really exist, and it’s merely innuendo about a decision they don’t like…

It is their view that Merton has ignored the impact on the road and public transport network and this needs to be reconsidered independently.

Apart from all that pesky “consultancy” stuff with those “experts” who think it’s “feasible” and are therefore not “independent”.

The retail study submitted with the application did not consider the cumulative impact of the Lidl store, the Cooperative store and the Sainsbury’s which are now due to open near the site and the group anticipates that the site would now fail the sequential test for retail floor space.

Read the bit about Retail (23), and see how planners slap this sort of stuff down.

The applicants and Council have failed to acknowledge the prospect of Crossrail 2 in the context of the application.

I forget when we put this project in, but Crossrail 2 got first mooted way after we did. Next, they’ll be saying that NPL has failed to acknowledge the fourth runway** at Heathrow.

** – not a typo

A proper assessment of flood risk needs to take place.

Those “experts” not playing ball again. Especially the clearly biased ones in the consultancy meetings who said that it was perfectly manageable.

Of course, by “proper assessment” they mean “reject outright”…

The group notes that the Mayor has not met with residents and considers that consultation has not been carried out in a balanced way.

Sadiq Khan is a very busy individual, and has 32 London Boroughs to deal with. I can’t think why he wouldn’t want to meet a small-yet-very-vocal bunch of local busybodies.

There is no justification for there being less than 10% affordable housing and notes the Mayor’s commitment to achieving 50% affordable housing in schemes.

Oh dear, the report mentioned “this has been verified by independent viability experts”. Quick, man the conspiracy theories.

The increased risk of terrorism now needs to be taken into account in this scheme.

You know, if I was a resident who didn’t want NPL to happen, I would be wanting to commit my own act of terrorism against WPRA and their ilk right now.

There are legitimate concerns, some of which will be shared by matchgoers as well. But claiming things like terrorism is basically just throwing any objection out just for the sake of it.

For the record, assuming they’re being serious, sports venues are one of the most aware of such stuff – put it this way, if you want to avoid getting blown up, go to a football ground rather than a shopping centre.

Planners have read and heard it all before from NIMBYs, it must be one of the most tedious parts of that job. I wouldn’t blame them for simply tuning out – especially that the arguments made above were dealt with even before LBM met on 10/12/15.

And when it just becomes white noise, like most of it now is, you have to question what good it did them.

There plenty more if you want to read it, but the most important thing is – today, we’ve made another stride back home. And that has to be a good thing.

LBM still have to rubber stamp it, though it would be beyond perverse if they don’t. According to this, it will conclude on 15th September.

The Secretary of State might get involved, although reading this report a lot of what they do seems to be done already.

A judicial review is possible, but unlikely because a) it would cost a fair bit even before it got going, and b) pre-action protocols demand there has to be a very good legal reason to do it, rather than just not liking the decision.

As Boris Johnson proved, never say never, but we’re starting to get to the stage where any arguments just go around in circles. And leaving our own bias aside, I’m struggling to think why this would need to get called in any further now.

There’s still a few things that need to get nailed, like the S106s. I doubt it was coincidence when Tooting MP Rose Allington Khan talked about sums for them the day after the consultancy ended, and one suspects we’re further down the line on them than you might think.

Things won’t probably get signed and sealed before Xmas, but that’s “only” three months away now. It seems like a long time, but equally it might start moving quickly now because there’s a desire simply to get things sorted.

Either way, it’s now going to start getting real, and we can finally talk about actually making it work. Christ, building the bloody thing will be enough in itself…

7 thoughts to “Yes We Khan”

  1. Lidl’s objection was weird. Especially since they’ve only just opened, and of course Duh, new customers..
    Did Wickes or any of the other box stores around there complain?

  2. Really great news for the club and the community, justice has been served. Brilliant campaign, you were in the right but you still had to pull it off so well done to those involved.

    Most of the comments by the WRPA who oppose the Plough Lane stadium just can’t be taken seriously. Terrorism threat is the most laughable.

    As you say, if I was a genuine resident I’d be fuming with the WRPA, they were one or two genuine concerns up for discussion but they failed to pursue them properly.

    They also sold their soul to the devil when they got involved with Pascahl Taggart and greyhound…

  3. Great news today. Sadly the ITV London coverage was very poor this evening. Quoting gates for the Dogs in the sixties and seventies as 15000 plus. I worked there from 1970 to 1974 and there were never gates of that size. Take a nought off and you are nearer the mark! Greyhound racing has had it’s day at Wimbledon and the WPRA siding with the Doggers was laughable. Well done to the club and everyone who supported the campaign to bring the Dons back to Plough Lane where they never should have left. At last the end is in sight and another wrong will be put right.

  4. Good news and hopefully the end is now in sight (before the work then starts!).

    The original plan was to be in the new ground for the start of 2018/19 wasn’t it? Any ideas of how much that will have changed now? Will we be homeless in the interim if it’s not ready for the start of that season?

    1. Unless they can build it within a year from summer 2017, it won’t be ready for the start of 18/19.

      I would guess we’d negotiate an extension at KM, although I wouldn’t object to a groundshare for a couple of months and then move in mid-season.

      On another subject, for those who like to follow what happened to the other greyhound tracks in London that closed , this is quite interesting (?) about Walthamstow, and how somebody else tried to apparently get it on the cheap a la Taggart:

      http://londonist.com/2011/02/whats-going-on-with-walthamstow-stadium

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