Millwall suffered a blow tonight as Lewisham Council’s cabinet voted to approve the controversial Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of land around their stadium.
The cabinet approved the proposal by a vote of six to one with one abstention, to the disappointment of Millwall’s fans.
Defend our Den founder and Millwall Fan on the Board Peter Garston said: “We are terribly disappointed in the result. But we’re heartened by the support from our MPs, the Lewisham Labour Group and Councillor Joe Dromey who voted against it.
“We also appreciated Councillor Brenda Dacres who spoke out against the CPOs at the meeting along with resident Willow Winston. There’s no change for the club as this will be long process.
“But we will fight on for the club, the Millwall Community Trust and the fans.”
Subject to an appeal, if the CPO gets the all clear it will see the Den’s car park, land used by the Millwall Community Scheme, and some other parts bought by the council before being sold onto developers Renewal.
A Lewisham Council spokesman said: “Lewisham Council’s Mayor and Cabinet has agreed to proceed with Compulsory Purchase orders on the remaining 10 per cent of the land at New Bermondsey to allow this important redevelopment to proceed.
“The New Bermondsey regeneration has the potential to deliver huge benefits for Lewisham and wider region which is why this decision was taken. The scheme would deliver 2,400 desperately needed new homes, a new Overground station, new sports facilities and up to 1,500 new permanent jobs.
“Lewisham Council has listened to all points of view about how the area could benefit from major redevelopment, Millwall FC’s needs into the future, and the importance of community based sports provision for local young people
“An enhanced Millwall stadium, the Den, is at the centre of this regeneration opportunity. The area around the stadium is currently a run-down, under-used light industrial 30 acre site that needs to work much better for the borough.
“Adopting this report triggers the next phase of negotiations. Leaseholders and freeholders will be invited to resume negotiations with Renewal over the required land acquisition. Freeholders and leaseholders who are not willing to negotiate with Renewal would have the opportunity to negotiate with the council.
“Property consultants GL Hearn are available to advise on valuation matters, and to assist in negotiations with landowners.”
Both the council and Renewal have spent twelve years purchasing land in north Lewisham in order to create a 2,400-home development.
During the three-hour meeting, Willow Winston, a resident who will lose her home, said in her representation: “This is like going to a scaffold and saying your last words. If this CPO goes ahead I will lose where I live and work.
“I have read the report over and over again. It’s like a verbal bulldozer, which is good preparation for when the actual bulldozers come I suppose.
“I became ill from the stress of it all. There were billboards saying “sell us your land or face a CPO”. The activities of the Council has been over taken by Renewal. I want to be able to do work while I am still able.
“You say you have negotiated with everybody but I have to say that none of my neighbours have [negotiated with]. I am only healthy enough to talk to you now because of Millwall.
“I play walking football with them and it is bloody good fun.”
The chair of the Lewisham Labour Group, Councillor Brenda Dacres, said in her representation that they “feel as if not all routes between Millwall and Renewal” had been exhausted, and that the “over-riding public interest test” had not been met for the CPO to go ahead.
She added: “A CPO is meant to be a last resort. As a Council we should be more assertive in getting these parties together.
“I would also urge the cabinet to take into due consideration the political point of tax evasion. There is a risk of damage to reputation if the CPO is approved and the council works with Renewal.”
A Renewal representative confirmed that it would pay its taxes in the UK, after a cabinet member said the company’s use of “offshore companies is a concern”.
An emotional Peter Garston, Millwall’s fan-on-the-board, said in the third representation: “All the good Millwall does in the community would go if the CPO goes ahead.
“Please, when you look in the mirror in the morning, if you are one that makes the decision, make sure you did it for the right reason.”
Councillor Joe Dromey, the Cabinet Member for Policy and Performance led a damning review of the plans, saying “with low level of public housing I do not see the public interest in granting a CPO”.
Councillor Rachel Onikosi, Cabinet Member for the Public Realm, hit back at Cllr Dromey saying that there was a “compelling case for CPO in the report and plans”.
Millwall has been opposed to the proposals due to concerns over Renewal’s long term plans for the area, and have drawn up their own proposals for redevelopment.
- “Around 400 homes”
- Safeguarding Lions Centre
- Five towers at least eighteen storeys high
- Artists’ workshops
- Student accommodation
RENEWAL’S NEW BERMONDSEY
- 2,400 homes
- New ‘Surrey Canal’ London Overground station
- Two new bus routes
- Indoor sports centre
- 2,000 jobs
- Multi-faith centre
- Hotel and conference centre
- Health complex
The football club’s chairman, John Berylson, recently appealed to the London Mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene in the matter by writing him a letter.
A campaign launched by the club called Defend Our Den saw support from across the country, gathering more than 24,000 signatures on a petition and the approval of celebrities such as Gary Lineker.
The petition was delivered by Millwall supporters and Bermondsey’s Harvey Brown, an ill fan who has followed the club all his life, and even led the team out in last season’s play-off match against Barnsley.
Harvey has the rare Morquio syndrome, which stunts skeletal growth, leaving sufferers with weak bones, and a tendency to develop heart disease, and impaired vision and hearing – and supporting Millwall has been a great love of his.
The football club has played an important part in Harvey’s life as they supported a campaign to get him and 77 other children in the UK suffering from Morquio syndrome the vital medication Vimizim funded on the NHS.