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Londoners back £200m expansion for Wimbledon

Wimbledon's expansion plans including a new  8,000-seater showcourt (handout)
Wimbledon's expansion plans including a new 8,000-seater showcourt (handout)

Five times as many Londoners support Wimbledon’s £200 million expansion plan as oppose it, according to a poll.

The All England Club, which runs the Wimbledon Championships, wants to build 38 new grass courts and an 8,000-seater stadium on the former Wimbledon Park golf course to keep pace with other grand slam tournaments in New York, Paris and Melbourne.

But furious residents say the plans would leave the surrounding areas over-congested with traffic and have concerns about removing green spaces.

However, new research from YouGov has revealed that 58 per cent of London adults support the expansion compared to 11 per cent who oppose it. About half (49 per cent) of those surveyed said they supported the proposal because it will provide an economic boost for local businesses and create new jobs.

Meanwhile, 44 per cent of Londoners backed the plans because they see Wimbledon as a huge source of pride. Additionally, 38 per cent feel the project could help safeguard the future of the championships. Some 40 per cent of the 1,029 respondents to the survey, commissioned by the AELTC, supported the expansion because it offers the public access to new green spaces.

The expansion was approved in October by Merton council, where the majority of the development is set to take place.

But Wandsworth, on whose land five of the courts were to be built, voted against the proposals after concluding that there were not the necessary very special circumstances to outweigh harm and loss of Metropolitan Open Land.

The Greater London Authority is now expected to review the decision, paving the way for it to be overturned or given to Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove for a final ruling.

Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, said: “We firmly believe the Wimbledon Park Project offers significant social, economic and environmental improvements.”

The community ticket scheme for local residents will also be expanded, including free tickets for schools in Merton and Wandsworth.