Wimbledon hope to return home
Wimbledon are hoping to return to their spiritual home at Plough Lane. However, the process is fraught with obstacles and, even if all goes well, it could be some years before they return there.
The initial plan is for a stadium of 11,000, which would be more than adequate for League 2 or even for League 1. However, the proposals include the flexibility to expand the stadium in stages to a 20,000 capacity. They also set out plans for new banqueting and conference facilities as well as around 600 new homes to be built by Galliard Homes, shops and community facilities.
The club, which currently plays at the Kingsmeadow stadium in Kingston, has submitted the plans as part of Merton Council's 'call for sites' process which seeks to allocate sites for redevelopment between 2014 and 2024.
The Council has also received submissions from other proposals for the site, including the construction of a new greyhound stadium. There has been a decline in the number of venues for greyhound racing in London, but whether sufficient demand is there is an interesting question. Although historically football and the dogs have been combined at a number of famous grounds, including Wembley and Stamford Bridge, it involves increasing the distance between the fans and the action because there is a track in between.
Merton Council will now decide which proposed designations to include in its draft Sites and Policies Plan, which it said it expects submit to the Secretary of State for examination this month. The plan will be reviewed and approved by an independent inspector with an Inspector's Report on the draft plan is expected to be published in early 2014.
'AFC Wimbledon is a community-owned club. We are making a powerful case for transforming a dilapidated area into a stadium that will be at the heart of our community,' said AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson.
'As we explain in our submission, since our formation in 2002, we have been actively involved in Merton in an astonishingly wide range of activities, despite being based in Kingston upon Thames. Re-locating to the area we represent provides an outstanding opportunity for us to increase and extend this involvement many times over,' he added.
Samuelson said that, if the Council decides to designate the site for stadium redevelopment in its draft plan and if the plan gets approved by the Secretary of State, the club expects to submit a planning application in the spring. Subject to consent, it could then take another two years before construction could start, he said.