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Erik's stadium update

1 December 2014

The latest on a potential Plough Lane return

Chief Executive Erik Samuelson provided an update on the club’s bid for a new stadium back at Plough Lane in Saturday’s match day programme and this is republished below.

As you may have seen, we have submitted a planning application, jointly with Galliard Homes, to Merton Council. This is the latest, but probably the most significant, step towards realising our dream of a stadium back in Wimbledon. That’s our home, and that’s where we aim to be for the next phase of the extraordinary journey we embarked upon 12 years ago.

The application is the culmination of an incredible amount of hard work from a wide range of people over a long period of time. There’s a whole series of clichés I could resort to here, most of them variations on the theme of “the end of the beginning”. Instead, I’ll just say that we are still on a very long journey but we’ve just taken a very substantial step on our way.

It has indeed been a very long journey. The Stadium Working Group first reviewed possible sites about 18 months after we started ground-sharing at Kingsmeadow. The most recent review was carried out by independent consultants who submitted their report in February 2013. That report concluded that Plough Lane was clearly the best option for a new stadium for the club, and since then we’ve focused exclusively on that site. In between those two reports, a large number of people have given up their time to make sure that we maintained our focus and that our views were heard by Merton, so as to protect our options for a return home.

So what happens next? Well, the main message is to ask you not to do anything yet, please. Now that Merton has the application, which consists of a huge number of documents comprising analysis, drawings, charts, reports and narrative, the planning team will carry out the checks that comprise a formal registration process, after which the application will be allocated a registration number. That process can take a few weeks, although we are hopeful that it will be completed fairly quickly.

Once the application has a registration number, the submission will be made publicly available on Merton Council’s website and the planning review process will be under way. The process should take no more than 16 weeks, so even if there are no delays it will be March before any decision is announced.

During the review period the Council’s planning team will assess the plans against a number of laid- down policies and regulations. They will also carry out a consultation in the surrounding area to obtain feedback about the plans. We expect the consultation to focus on an area relatively close to the stadium site, but anyone can send comments to Merton Council, quoting the registration number.

We are very keen that our fans should make their views known at that stage – but not before, please, as you need to quote the registration number for your support to be effective. We will be encouraging everyone to write to the Council. In addition, a group of fans is running the Bring The Dons Home campaign, and I expect them be very active once the application is made publicly available.

If all goes well, the application should be approved by Merton Council sometime next spring. Even then it could possibly be subjected to further reviews; we hope this won’t prove necessary, though it is outside our control. Our ambition remains to be in a new stadium in time for the start of the 2017/18 season, and from where we are now that looks perfectly feasible.

There’s still a long way to go and there are many issues to be addressed before we can say with absolute confidence that this is going to happen. But we remain positive about our prospects.

Finally, let’s look back to May 2002. If we’d said back then that within 12 years we’d be established in the Football League and applying to move back to Plough Lane in a brand new stadium that could eventually hold 20,000 fans, most people would have said we were even crazier than the Crazy Gang. Well maybe we are, but that’s what we’ve done. We’re on our way!

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