in the back

Open season
Wimbledon expansion, Issue 1626
WITH Wimbledon looming, the All England Lawn Tennis Club is in full lobbying mode for its plan to build an 8,000-seat stadium, 38 courts, 10 buildings and nine kilometres of roads and paths in its neighbouring park in south-west London, to host its qualifying tournament.

COURT JOUSTERS: The All England Club is pushing hard to expand into a neighbouring park
Former player Tim Henman backed the development in the weekend papers, warning that the current site was “struggling”.

Ad advantage
Meanwhile the club has placed adverts in national newspapers promoting the development as well as putting up glossy posters around London showing bucolic scenes with trees and a pretty lake. The posters tell commuters and tourists: “You could be a short walk away from a beautiful new park” – even though passers-by at Charing Cross or Heathrow are around 10 miles from the proposed site at Wimbledon Park.

Campaigners against the development complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the poster showed a view of the park’s greenery which will take decades of growth, and that it failed to show the new development which will take place on the former golf course and parkland designated as Metropolitan Open Land.

The ASA declined to follow up the complaints because the poster included a QR code which, if used, gave further information about the development.

Meanwhile, Wimbledon locals putting up their own campaign posters against the development were mystified when they disappeared – until one resident’s CCTV caught a man with a walkie talkie and security lanyard taking them down at dead of night. Presumably a Wimbledon fan?

Split decision
The proposal has been called in by the Greater London Authority after the development was passed by Merton council but rejected by neighbouring Wandsworth council. At the start of a month-long consultation period, the All England club proposed offering public access to four further acres of parkland. But those against the development were unimpressed.

The Save Wimbledon Park campaign has entered new objections to what it describes as “an industrial tennis complex”, including a biodiversity expert’s claim that the club’s figure of a 23 percent biodiversity net gain from its plan is, in fact, a 36 percent net loss.

Slam dunk
In another submission, architect Richard Rees, who was the design team leader for the club’s 1990s plan that included the new Number 1 court and Henman Hill, disputes the club’s claim that it needs the development to maintain its position among the grand slam tennis events. He points out that Wimbledon’s TV viewing figures still exceed all other grand slam events.

The French Open “still has fewer [on-site] spectators than Wimbledon and manages quite nicely to justify its grand slam status”, he stated in his submission with fellow architect and long-term Wimbledon resident Ken McFarlane.

He also questioned why the qualifying tournament can’t continue to take place in nearby Roehampton. Or, as many campaigners point out, the All England club could live up to its name and take the qualifying tournament to another part of the UK, boosting interest in the sport and spreading its benefits far from the hallowed grounds of SW19.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Turd of the Week Liv Garfield has been awarded a £584,000 bonus even though her employer Severn Trent’s sewage spills increased by a third last year.

Tees Valley regional mayor Ben Houchen is getting adds a handy supplement to his mayoral salary via the £342 allowance for his occasional visits to the Lords.

Ethnic minority police officers are still finding it harder to get promoted than white officers, statistics seen by the Eye show.

The appearance of former Post Office chair Alice Perkins at the Post Office Inquiry brought yet more evasions and professions of ignorance.

Two recent conferences attended by ministers and shadow ministers show how closely arms firms are involved in shaping British foreign policy

Lord (Peter) Mandelson has resigned from the board of his lobbying firm Global Counsel, opening the way for a possible government role.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1626 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 1st August 2024
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In This Issue
Thank God the nation’s beloved figurehead is back… Sir Edward Davey: An Apology… Green party accused of ‘rowing back’ on green policies… Seven-way debate ‘a total mess’… Mr Tickle admits, ‘Yes, I was a bit handsy but I’ve learned my lesson’… US ironyometer in meltdown… Warning over invasive bamboo story… Four WAGs to watch in the tournament everyone’s talking about… Nadine Dorries: My current concerns, as told to Craig Brown

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Saving the NHS
MD on the main parties’ health pledges

Right move
Suella Braverman is looking beyond the election already

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