The decision to postpone a controversial Lewisham Council meeting which threatened Millwall’s “very survival” has been met with both relief and frustration – as well as confusion.
The council called off the meeting with just minutes to spare on Wednesday night, citing an unspecified “person potentially affected”, as Millwall fans presented a 15,000-strong ‘Defend Our Den’ petition to Lewisham councillor Joe Dromey.
The council had been preparing to vote on a proposed compulsory purchase order for land by The Den, which would then have been handed to Renewal for their New Bermondsey project. Millwall opposed the proposal and urged to council to consider their own development plans.
The decision to postpone was broadly “welcomed” by the Association of Millwall Supporters (AMS).
A spokesperson said: “It can’t have been an easy decision and AMS would like to put on record our thanks to all involved especially the councillors, Lord Roy Kennedy and our local MPs who fought our corner but also to the mayor and his cabinet for listening. We now need to concentrate on the future.
“We call upon the council and Millwall FC to set out a clear time-scale for talks, to let us know what is and isn’t up for discussion and what mechanisms will be put in place to ensure we, the fans, are kept informed. The bottom line is that Millwall needs Lewisham and Lewisham needs Millwall.”
Lewisham’s statement failed to mention the campaign against the CPO, instead attributing the last-minute back-down to the discovery of its potential impact on a single unspecified person.
A spokesperson for the council said: “The circumstances of a person potentially affected by the CPO have just come to light. These circumstances need to be investigated before the cabinet can consider the report concerning the CPO. That will now take place as quickly as possible so that the consideration of the report can be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.
“Considering the substantial representations that have been received on the matter, members of the cabinet have asked that the opportunity that this delay presents is taken to try once more to bring Millwall FC and the developers Renewal together to see if they can come to an agreement.”
While most welcomed the postponement, developers Renewal expressed their frustration and disappointment.
Director Mark Taylor said: “We are disappointed that it has been necessary to postpone the decision regarding the Compulsory Purchase Order.
“Renewal has spent over ten years working with the council and other land owners to assemble the land necessary to progress the New Bermondsey scheme, which will deliver 2,400 new homes for Lewisham – within the New Bermondsey Housing Zone – as well as a range of other benefits including a new Overground Station and community facilities for this part of inner London.
“Although we have been successful in securing the majority of land by agreement, and have held detailed discussions with the remaining land owners in an attempt to complete the assembly of the site, we believe a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is now necessary to ensure this important regeneration can be progressed.
“We have made every attempt to secure an agreement with Millwall FC for the land surrounding their stadium and have been clear throughout the process that our proposals would safeguard the Club and deliver significant improvements to the external parts of the stadium and the land around it, as well as providing a new home for the Millwall Community Scheme.
“The CPO process is an important step forward in the delivery of the New Bermondsey scheme and we look forward to the Council making a decision in due course.”
The date for the re-arranged decision has not yet been arranged.