Wimbledon is divided after the Mayor of London decided to "call in" AFC Wimbledon's plans for a new stadium in Plough Lane due to "significant issues of controversy". 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced on Tuesday, March 22, that rather than approve or refuse the planning application he would begin the consultation process again, and act as the local planning authority.

This process is unlikely to begin until the summer, after the mayoral election on May 5.

March 22: AFC Wimbledon: Mayor of London Boris Johnson "calls in" Plough Lane stadium application for further consultations

According to a report from the Mayor’s office, the decision to call in the plans was made due to “the scale and nature of public representations received, which raise valid strategic planning matters regarding transport, housing, sports and cultural provision, including significant issues of controversy that require full consideration in a public hearing.”

Wimbledon Times:

An artists' impression of the new stadium. Photo: Sheppard Robson Architects

The Mayor’s report raises concerns with insufficient cycle parking, more information needed about the impact on traffic and transport during match days and after the stadium expansion and a lack of affordable housing.

February 2015: AFC Wimbledon's Plough Lane bid: Boris Johnson highlights flaws but offers 'remedies'

Just 60 of the proposed 602 flats have been earmarked as affordable housing, and the report notes that “the 9.6 per cent affordable housing offer is substantially lower than the Council’s minimum borough-wide target of 40 per cent.”

However, it acknowledged that the Environment Agency was satisfied that the risk of flood was reduced, and the revised proposals had increased flood resilience on the site.

Chairman of the Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association, Iain Simpson, welcomed the Mayor’s decision.

He said: “I am pleased that further examination of the application will take place. Both our association and many other people consider the application to be very flawed. We were very disappointed the council approved the application in its present form.

December 19, 2015: Boris Johnson should "comprehensively" review AFC Wimbledon stadium plans, claims Wandsworth Council

“I think there was a great effort by Merton Council to push this through, because they have hung their hats on this for some time. They had made this a major part of their political life for the last two or three years.

“Now the aspects that really need to be addressed can be properly looked at by the Mayor.”

The Mayor also acknowledged the loss of the Greyhound Stadium and the stock car racing in Plough Lane if the new stadium went ahead, and described receiving a “significant amount of support for the retention of a greyhound stadium at this site (and continued stock car racing)”.

The current Greyhound Stadium is due to officially close on Saturday, June 18 after the famous Derby on June 4.

Wimbledon Times:

The current stadium in Plough Lane

A petition started to save the stadium and keep it for greyhound and stock car racing has received close to 12,000 signatures. 

However, a petition in support of AFC Wimbledon's plans and the demolition of the Greyhound Stadium submitted to the Mayor by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) amassed almost 14,500 signatures.

Businessman and greyhound racer, Paschal Taggart, said: “Obviously it’s the right decision from the Mayor. I think he has taken consideration of all the very valid objections raised.

“The Greyhound Stadium will still definitely close. If the football stadium doesn’t get the approval for what they want, I would buy the site for a new greyhound stadium.

“I don’t believe it will be refused, but I am hoping.”

Speaking last night after the Mayor's decision was announced, chief executive of AFC Wimbledon Erik Samuelson expressed his disappointment but insisted they had not given up hope. 

He said: "We will represent our case strongly and clearly, and I still think it's an overwhelmingly positive case.

"I would rather it had not happened, but if it needs to be done to show strong the case is then so be it."

AFC Wimbledon fans celebrated in December when Merton Council’s planning committee gave unanimous approval to the multi-million pound plans, which include knocking down the Greyhound Stadium and building an 11,000 seat stadium, which would be expanded to 20,000 seats, as well as 602 flats, shops, a crèche and a squash and fitness centre.

December 16, 2015: AFC Wimbledon fans still celebrating victory - but will decision go into extra time?

Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis, said: “It’s a very disappointing decision on the part of a Mayor who has had other things on his mind.

“I don’t know why, given the unanimous decision, the response to the consultations and his own Greater London Assembly officers asking him to approve it, he is stalling.

“I think it’s very poor on his part to hand the decision to a new Mayor.”

To read the Mayor's report and decision letter, click here.

Did Boris make the right decision? Comment below, find us on Facebook or Twitter@WimbledonNews and let us know.