Council bosses are looking at ways to secure public ownership of Dulwich Hamlet FC’s ground amid fears they face eviction by their owner at the end of the season.
Southwark Council leader Peter John and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have sent a joint letter to owner Meadow Residential LLP, saying the local authority is keen to buy the freehold to the Champion Hill site at market rate.
A report due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting this Tuesday, March 13, also sets out the council’s plans to explore its powers for acquiring the site in other ways – including by compulsory purchase order.
It comes after the 125-year-old club claimed it was served notice on its licence to play at the ground by Meadow on Monday and also received a £121,000 bill for backdated rent.
Meadow bought the site in 2014 with the intention of regenerating the land for new homes, but their plans were rejected by the council in October for various reasons, including a lack of affordable homes.
And this week the club’s Twitter account tweeted a letter it said was sent by lawyers on behalf of Greendales IP LLC, a subsidiary of Meadow, stating that the company became the owner of the trademarks Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, The Hamlet, and DHFC in October 2017.
The club, which has been at its current home since 1912, was told in the letter it could no longer use the trademarks “in any printed literature and any online activity including websites and Twitter”.
However in a U-turn yesterday, Wednesday, Meadow said it would be transferring the trademarks to the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust “with immediate effect”.
Dulwich Hamlet FC said in a statement on Tuesday: “Yesterday [Monday] evening, the club were served notice that our licence to play at Champion Hill would be terminated immediately.
“We are consulting with solicitors on the matter, as we feel they do not have legal grounds to serve such a notice.
“This comes on top on the £121,000 ‘back rent’ bill we were served last week.”
In a report for Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Councillor Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said the council planned to “acquire” the freehold of the Champion Hill site to secure the long-term future of Greendale and Dulwich Hamlet and also build new council homes.
He added that the council had no intention of redeveloping the stadium or pitch for residential purposes and that Dulwich Hamlet had informed the council there was “limited prospect” of the club being allowed to use the stadium after the end of this season.
Councillor Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, said in a statement: “Southwark Council is bold in its plans to build thousands of new council homes, and we are constantly on the lookout for potential sites for new homes.
“Part of the Champion Hill site offers us one such opportunity. But we know that communities are more than just homes.
“The things that bring and keep us together are as important as bricks and mortar, which is why Southwark has been so vocal in its support for Dulwich Hamlet Football Club – a great and much-loved community asset. This report demonstrates our commitment to community, both in terms of providing much-needed new homes, and in preserving the stadium for the club.”
Meadow said in a statement on Wednesday: “Meadow has no dispute with the playing staff, the many loyal fans and members of the community who care about the club and who want the club to survive.
“Meadow would never have committed such significant sums of money to support the club if it did not genuinely believe in its importance and value to the community.
“Over the past few days we have heard and listened to the concerns expressed by the Mayor of London, local MPs and the many fans who care about the club. We remain willing to sit down with all parties to find a way forward.
“Our view is that is best achieved by:
- ?Southwark Council to agree a new lease with The Club of the AstroTurf at Greendales Playing Fields
- ?Southwark Council withdrawing its legal costs claim against DHFC Ltd.
- ?Meadow agreeing to allow the Club to operate from Champion Hill for the remainder of the season.
- Meadow transferring with immediate effect the ownership of the trade marks to DHST, ensuring that the fans properly own the name and can work with us, DHFC Ltd and Southwark Council to make the changes that are needed to secure its future.
- Southwark Council agreeing to approach any future planning applications respecting planning law, policy and accepted due process.
“Meadow’s fundamental position has never changed. Meadow owns the Champion Hill site and wishes to develop it to provide much needed housing, including affordable housing, and a new stadium for the club therefore securing its future at Champion Hill.
“With the support of Southwark Council, the community and ultimately the involvement of the Mayor of London, Meadow will do so.”