More information ahead of key date for the club
Merton Council’s Planning Committee will this Thursday consider the joint application by Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon for the development of the Plough Lane site, including permission to build a 20,000-capacity stadium as a new home for our club.
This article explains our understanding of how the meeting will be conducted and the arrangements for fans to follow the proceedings.
The meeting will take place at Merton’s Civic Centre, at Morden, and will start at 7.15 pm. We understand that several applications are to be considered and that ours will be first on the agenda, following a brief introductory session that includes apologies for absence, declarations of pecuniary interest and minutes of the previous meeting.
The meeting will start with a presentation by Council officers, explaining the application and their recommendation – which is for the Committee to give its approval. All timings are approximate, and this presentation is expected to last for 15 to 20 minutes. Following the presentation, a maximum of ten objectors will each be allowed to speak for up to three minutes each.
The applicants (Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon) or their representatives will then be allowed to speak, with no specific limit on each speaker’s time, though the applicants between them must not exceed the total time taken by the objectors. For example, if five objectors speak for three minutes each, then Galliard Homes and the club, together, may not speak for more than 15 minutes.
While it is difficult to predict precise timings, by about 8.30 pm, and following our representations, ward councillors who are not on the Planning Committee may (with the consent of the Chair) speak. They may do so for a maximum of three minutes each, but they may not take any part in the subsequent debate or vote – although they may be allowed by the Chair to put questions of fact to Council officers. For our specific application, we understand that the Chair will allow one ward councillor to speak, as well as one councillor for each ward local to the site of the proposed development.
After the speeches and representations, the members of the Planning Committee will discuss the application. If necessary, the Chair will ask applicants or objectors to clarify any points. There is no formal time limit set for this part of the meeting, but the Chair will no doubt wish the discussion and questions to be very thorough.
At the end of this discussion, the Chair will sum up and the Planning Committee will vote. If the vote is in favour of the application, other stages will need to be completed before a formal planning decision is made. Most importantly, there has to be no objection by the Greater London Authority, and the Section 106 agreement, which sets out various conditions relating to the granting of permission (for example, specifying contributions to road and transport improvements), must be approved.
The Council has already announced that anyone who wishes to speak against the application will need to have applied to do so, and up to ten of these applicants will have been selected to speak. The club and Galliard are co-ordinating the speakers in favour of the application.
In the room where the meeting will be held there is space for only a small number of members of the public. These spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and, while we cannot be sure, we assume that anyone arriving after 6.30 is unlikely to get a place; even that may be too late.
Recognising the high level of interest in the application, Merton Council is making arrangements to stream the proceedings into adjacent rooms and the lobby of the Civic Centre. We encourage fans to attend to watch the proceedings, as the decision is arguably the most important for our club since it was re-formed in 2002.
Throughout the planning process, which began with the submission of our application in November 2014, the club has recognised that some people have genuine and sincere objections, and we have sought to treat their views with due respect. Feelings may run high at the meeting, but we urge fans who attend to follow the club’s lead: we may not agree with the objectors, but our aim is to present our case calmly and positively, and to allow objectors to have their say.
For fans who cannot attend, we will be tweeting updates on the progress of the meeting, and you are invited to sign up to the club’s Twitter feed, @AFCWimbledon. A report on the proceedings and reaction from the club and the Dons Trust will appear on our official website as soon as possible after the meeting.