There have been a number of developments in recent months concerning the process for the redevelopment and regeneration of the New Bermondsey Housing Zone, a substantial area surrounding and including The Den
The majority of the project is being carried out by Renewal Group with which, it may be remembered, discussions were held for the inclusion of land belonging to the Company and to the Millwall Community Trust (MCT) within the Renewal scheme; those discussions came to nothing. It may also be remembered that, at one time, the Company had agreed detailed heads of terms with the Lewisham District Council (Council) whereby the Company would be allowed to develop the land surrounding the stadium for its own account a portion of any profit going to the Council, the Company’s landlord; that deal was unilaterally withdrawn by the Council.
The Company has therefore put forward its own scheme for the development of the land that it and the MCT own. That scheme would create a significant amount of much-needed affordable and private housing, student accommodation, retail and office space and a substantial hotel and conference centre. The proposed plans incorporate a facelift for the stadium itself, a new home for the MCT, affordable work space for some of the Club’s neighbouring businesses and, very importantly, allow for the future extension of The Den and ensure the safe operation of the stadium on match days. The original plans were prepared in 2013 but during this last year they have been extensively updated and revised and discussions have been opened with the local planning officers to press the Company’s case for being allowed to undertake that part of the development of New Bermondsey that relates to the land around the stadium.
The directors fully endorse and support the Council’s stated intention that the Club and its stadium should be at the heart of the thriving and brighter community that can emerge in Lewisham and wish to ensure that the Company plays a full part in making this happen, and benefits accordingly. The Company’s scheme provides an opportunity to bring much greater financial stability to the Club by generating the essential non-football revenues which are vital to the long term future of any football club.
Unfortunately, the Council has consistently declined to consider the Millwall proposals and instead took two important decisions back in September 2013. One was to grant Renewal Group an exclusive right to develop and profit from New Bermondsey thereby shutting the Company out of any involvement in the regeneration of the land surrounding The Den. The other was to sell its freehold interests in all that land to Renewal Group without giving the Company any opportunity to buy them, preferring instead to deal secretly with a private property developer which is owned offshore and, by its own admission, has no experience of carrying out developments of this size.
Those decisions materially and adversely affected not only the Club and its community scheme but also the livelihoods and futures of its neighbours and friends. Accordingly, the Company’s representatives have challenged the Council’s actions and are seeking full disclosure of the circumstances in which the decisions were made and the documents and investigations on which they appear to have been based. The Information Commissioner has backed the Club. The Council and Renewal Group have appealed and there is to be a full hearing later this in November.
Furthermore, the Council has long been threatening to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire the land belonging to the Company, the MCT and several of our neighbours, both businesses and individual homeowners. In February this year, the Council tried to obtain the necessary powers but a flurry of adverse publicity and legal challenges organised by the Club saw the decision postponed. The Council tried again in September but this time the Council’s own Overview and Scrutiny Committee halted the process. At the time of this report, your directors wait to hear whether or not the process will be resumed. If it is, the Company will vigorously contest it and believes that it has many important arguments and facts to place before any appointed Planning Inspector.
The Company will continue to do its very best to persuade the Council of the synergy that exists between a football club and its local authority and that working together is always in the best interests of the community as a whole.
A lot of this unhappy saga has appeared in the media but interested shareholders are referred to a series of articles that appeared in The Guardian. These can be accessed via the following links:
Friday 9 September – Why Lewisham’s plans for Millwall’s Den really take the biscuit
Sunday 25 September: Millwall score an early goal as they seek the ultimate home win
Monday 26 September: Millwall property developer faces renewed questions over suggestions it wants to sell quickly
Wednesday 28 September: Millwall land battle takes further twist as new document sparks investigation
Thursday 27 October: Millwall given new hope in land battle as disquiet grows over property deal
Thursday 3 November: Millwall stadium wrangle sparks split among Lewisham Labour Councillors