The fact that Millwall Football Club has not been given any opportunity by Lewisham Council to take part in regenerating the area around the stadium stinks to high heaven.
This is a club that is at the very heart of the local community and part of the fabric of local life for many generations of south Londoners. It is shocking that a council that is supposed to put its residents first is refusing to engage with a local institution and then looking to enforce a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to effectively knock Millwall out of the game.
Millwall Chairman John Berylson has written to all the elected cabinet members at Lewisham putting forward an indisputable set of reasons to halt the CPO and look into why the club has been left on the sidelines.
He points out the chosen developer Renewal clearly plan to sell on some or all of their assets in Lewisham, while Millwall’s own development plans, which were not even considered, offer to share with the council their profits from their scheme to the benefit of the local community. And he asks: “Has Renewal offered to share its profits?”
Over two years ago Millwall tried to present their plans to Lewisham’s Director of Regeneration and Asset Management but it was refused. Mr Berylson rightly asks: “In rejecting Millwall’s requests to participate in the New Bermondsey regeneration project, the Council implied that only Renewal could undertake the scheme. However, the CPO report confirms that ‘Renewal will dispose of (by way of development agreements with house builders) individual development plots/phases in an ordered manner over the development period.’ If Renewal will not now undertake the whole scheme, why is Millwall being excluded? Rather than take away our land, why don’t they ask us to implement our development scheme? “
The CPO will threaten the Lions Centre, which is home to the community scheme that is regarded as one of the best in the football fraternity. Renewal says that it will re-house the community scheme in its proposed new sports centre, but Berlyson does cast doubt over the developer, claiming it has liabilities of £607,722, no history of working on regeneration projects of this scale and has no audited accounts for the parent shareholders as they are offshore.
This is a man who has already put his money where is mouth is, investing nearly £50 million in Millwall, and he promises under his scheme to give the centre a brand new premises alongside the stadium, where it belongs, charging no rent at all.
As the News goes to press the fate of the club is at stake. Should Lewisham continue to ignore them, and at the council meeting on Wednesday night (February 17) push for the CPO, a scheme is likely to be built that will cut the stadium off. It will be surrounded by luxury flats and the chance for Millwall to build a secure future in its historic homeland will be missed.
Everyone knows that the club’s fan base is now more Kent-based, as local people have been forced out because of ridiculously high property prices. For our football club to go the same way will be the end of Bermondsey as we know it.