AFC Wimbledon’s plans to build a football stadium in Plough Lane may be facing one final challenge as a decision is made on whether to list the current Wimbledon Stadium just months before it is due to be demolished.
Historic England have confirmed they will be revisiting the stadium to assess the “architectural interest of the building” after an initial request for listing was refused in early 2016.
However, the chief executive of AFC Wimbledon, Erik Samuelson, has said he would be “very surprised” if the listing was granted.
The reason behind this sudden turn in events lies with the Save Wimbledon Stadium Action Group (SWSAG), who have been campaigning to retain the current stadium with its greyhound and stock car racing, and prevent AFC Wimbledon building their new 20,000 seater stadium in Plough Lane.
An artist's impression of the new stadium from Sheppard Robson Architects
The new stadium, which will begin as an 11,000 seater before being expanded, will also be joined by 602 flats and a range of shops and amenities in plans that were first approved by Merton Council in December 2015 and finally given the all-clear by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in August last year.
Work on demolishing the current stadium is due to begin in April, with plans in place to complete the demolition and site preparation by the end of the year so that building work can begin at the start of 2018.
September 27: AFC Wimbledon cleared for Plough Lane return
However, stock car campaigner and SWSAG member, Michael Burnage, said the group have been working hard to research and gather information about the stadium’s architectural importance in a final attempt to appeal the original listing decision.
According to the Historic England website: “Listing marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system so that it can be protected for future generations.”
A listed building can still be demolished with relevant consent from the local authority: in this case, Merton Council.
Amongst other things, Mr Burnage said the group discovered that the stadium, which was built in 1927 by architects Elcock and Sutcliffe, played an important part in the history of World War Two in Wimbledon.
As well as onsite air raid shelters and an anti-aircraft gun, the stadium was also the site where the British Expeditionary Force assembled in 1939 before departing for Europe, and was a holding centre for refugees fleeing Europe in 1943.
SWSAG submitted a comprehensive history of the stadium running to 44-pages to Historic England, in comparison with their original application for listing which Mr Burnage admits had to be “rushed” and “basic” due to time constraints.
Mr Burnage said: “It is very possible that Historic England may still decline the listing, but with now new and substantial information in their hands, the decision has been taken that it should be duly examined.
“Will it change anything? Who knows? But at least now they are considering every facet of the stadium history that we discovered by traditional boots on the ground.”
However, Mr Samuelson, has expressed his doubts that the stadium would qualify for formal listing.
He said: “My understanding is this is a process they have already been through once, and they decided it didn’t merit being listed, and now they are doing it again.
“I would be very surprised if it was decided that the building was of architectural significance or historic merit.
"As far as we are concerned, we are doing the things we need to do, getting on with finalising agreements. If something comes up, we will look at it then.”
A spokeswoman for Historic England said: “We turned down an application to list Wimbledon Stadium in 2016 but the Department for Culture Media and Sport has been asked to review this decision, so according to established process we will be visiting to assess the architectural interest of the building.”
She was not able to say when a decision would be made or how long it is likely to take.
A spokeswoman for Merton Council said: “There is a process which Historic England must follow and we await their decision.”
What do you think? Email email@example.com and let us know