Lewisham Council’s plan to compulsorily purchase Millwall’s land around The Den has been thrown into doubt by a rebellion of the borough’s councillors.
Forty-five of Lewisham’s 54 Labour councillors have backed calls made by scrutiny committee chair, councillor Alan Hall, for an independent inquiry into the scheme.
It has emerged today that a key ally of Lewisham Council’s elected mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, has also withdrawn support for the scheme.
The change of heart from councillor Damien Egan, Lewisham’s cabinet member for housing, was due to his doubts over the council’s development partner, Renewal.
The Charities Commission has also said it’s investigating allegations that false claims have been made about funding for the scheme.
A statement by Cllr Egan said: “We should completely revisit the planning application that was made by Renewal in 2011 and go back to the drawing board.
“I don’t think it is acceptable that the public still have questions as to who the financial beneficiaries of the Renewal scheme are, I think this is information we should now be asking of all developers.
“The allegations in the Guardian in the past week about misleading claims of Sports England funding are serious and, in my opinion, completely undermine Renewal’s credibility.”
It emerged in December that Lewisham Council’s plans to forcibly buy Millwall off of land used for the Lions Centre, its park, and its café, could post an existential threat to the club.
FA chairman Greg Clarke told the News he “sympathised” with Millwall, as it faces being stripped of its Youth Academy Category Two status with £300,000 of annual funding, if it loses access to facilities at the Lions Centre which Lewisham wants to purchase.
Lewisham’s plan for the site would see the purchased Millwall land form part of a housing scheme of 2,400 flats (only twelve per cent at “affordable” rents) and an Overground station, all dubbed the New Bermondsey redevelopment.
Lewisham Council and Renewal have both been asked to comment.
A re-vote by Lewisham’s top councillors on whether to approve the compulsory purchase will take place on February 8. The re-vote has already been adjourned twice from January and February.