Alleged false funding claims surface as Millwall CPO battle continues

Chiara Giordano (20 January, 2017) Regeneration

Surrey Canal Sports Foundation has repeatedly claimed that it has secured £2million worth of funding from Sport England

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The controversial Millwall FC compulsory purchase battle has taken another turn after false funding claims emerged.

The sports foundation involved in the New Bermondsey scheme, which could see land used by Millwall sold off to a developer, has allegedly been making false claims of having a £2million funding agreement from Sport England, the Guardian revealed yesterday.

The claims have been made by the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation, a charitable company set up and backed by loans from developer Renewal.

The funding revelations could cast doubt on the future of the £1billion project which was set up to deliver 2,400 new homes, a new Overground station, new sports facilities and up to 1,500 permanent jobs.

The compulsory purchase of land used by the football club for its community trust, café, car park and youth academy has been the subject of ongoing protest among fans and the public, and Millwall chief executive Steve Kavanagh even suggested that the club may have to re-locate if it goes ahead.

The £2million Sport England “pledge” has been mentioned repeatedly as a material factor by Lewisham council and the Renewal-backed foundation.

The funding claim was present on June 25, 2014, in a report to Lewisham’s mayor and cabinet recommending the grant of half a million pounds of public money to the foundation and repeated as “a pledge in principle” in CPO documents produced by the council last year, the Guardian reported.

But allegedly no such funding agreement exists and no application for a funding agreement is in process.

Sport England has confirmed that it has had no official correspondence with the foundation since September 2014.

“In 2010 we received a funding application from the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation, but this was subsequently withdrawn in 2013,” Sport England told the Guardian. “We therefore have no funding agreement, of any kind, in place with them.”

Former Tory minister Steven Norris, one of the directors of Surrey Canal Sport Foundation, told the Guardian that the foundation originally approached Sport England in 2011 but that no application had been live since October 2013.

“The Surrey Canal Sports Foundation approached Sport England in 2011 to seek a £2m funding commitment for the proposed sports facilities at New Bermondsey,” he said.

“Our initial application was placed on to Sport England’s Iconic Facilities Fund. In October 2013 we received a formal letter from Sport England which referenced their ongoing support for the project and that the application was now being moved on to the Strategic Facilities Fund.

“Whilst the SCSF has made significant progress over the past four years we have not progressed a more formal application since October 2013 due to the inordinate length of the compulsory purchase order process and ongoing land assembly led by Renewal.

“We are still awaiting the outcome of the CPO process but following this do intend to re-engage Sport England and will be making a formal application for funding in the coming weeks.”

The compulsory purchase order is due to be re-heard by Lewisham Council on February 8.

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