Lewisham Council has today scrapped its controversial plans to force Millwall FC off of its land to build thousands of homes.
It follows fierce opposition from Millwall fans, politicians, celebrities and the top brass of the Football Association.
Yesterday it was announced that 45 of Lewisham’s 54 Labour councillors backed calls made by scrutiny committee chair, councillor Alan Hall, for an independent inquiry into the scheme.
Then it was revealed that a key supporter of the so-called New Bermondsey scheme with developer Renewal, Lewisham Council’s cabinet member for housing Damien Egan, had withdrawn support.
A council spokesperson has now confirmed that the compulsory purchase order (CPO) of land around the Den has been scrapped.
Sir Steve Bullock, Lewisham’s elected mayor, has said that the CPO on Millwall’s land “should not proceed”.
Bullock has said in a statement: “I have always been clear that Millwall must be at the heart of the development and it is my view that these concerns need to be thoroughly addressed, the CPO should not proceed and that all parties concerned should enter discussions to identify an agreed way to achieve the regeneration of this area while resolving these concerns.
“I have not made any public comment in regard to the proposed CPO because of my involvement with the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation (SCSF).
“I have served as a trustee of the Surrey Canal Sport Foundation for several years because I want to see excellent sports and youth facilities provided in the New Bermondsey area as well as new housing.”
The Charities Commission confirmed last week that it is investigating allegations that false claims have been made about funding for the scheme.
A statement by Cllr Egan on Tuesday, when he announced he would withdraw his support, 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.
In a statement today, a spokesperson for Millwall FC said: “The CPO threat has been hanging over us, our community scheme and our local friends and neighbours for far too long.
“The Mayor refers to it having started in February 2016, but that is incorrect. CPOs were agreed in principle by the Cabinet in 2012, and the New Bermondsey CPO item first appeared on the Council’s ‘Key Decisions’ list in the summer of 2014 and remained there.
“Today’s statements are not formal announcements by Lewisham Council. They are expressions of views by the individuals concerned. We hope that they will become formal Council policy, but until the Council makes its position unambiguously clear, we cannot be sure.
“The Mayor chose to become a member of the board of the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation and, as he has made clear, has no powers nor involvement in the CPO decision. Therefore, we call on the Council as a matter of urgency to make a formal announcement and to confirm that the CPO process has not just been suspended but formally withdrawn, removing the threat that has hung over all involved since 2012.
“At the same time, we insist that Lewisham Council proceeds with the independent investigation into all aspects of the process to date including, but not limited to, the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation and the claims about its funding that have been repeatedly made since 2014. It is essential to restore credibility and trust. This must be a recognisably independent review with no involvement from the Council’s Chief Executive, Mayor or Cabinet.
“Millwall Football Club has always supported the regeneration of this area and has offered to play its part. We make it clear that we remain ready to participate in a scheme in which we are, in the Council’s words, at the heart of any proposed redevelopment and which will appropriately benefit the club, its community scheme and the people and businesses of Lewisham.”
The decision to proceed with the CPO was due for a re-vote by Lewisham’s cabinet members in February 8, after the re-vote had already having been adjourned from December and January.