Millwall ‘looking at alternative sites’ after inquiry clears council of landgrab allegations

Pic: Steve Hardwicke

Millwall Football Club are giving “full consideration” to the possibility of moving away from Lewisham and have already looked into alternative sites, the club’s chairman John Berylson has confirmed.

In a statement published on Tuesday Berylson disputes the findings of an inquiry led by former Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, which last month cleared Lewisham Council of wrongdoing over its plans, later abandoned, to use a Compulsory Purchase Order to “seize” land around Millwall’s stadium, the Den.

The council had planned to sell the land onto offshore-registered developer Renewal who gained planning permission in 2012 to build houses and a sporting village on the land.

Millwall have been based in Lewisham since 1910 and are leased the land surrounding the Den by Lewisham Council.

Berylson’s statement, published alongside a letter to Lord Dyson, reads: “It will be extremely difficult to see a long term future in a borough where our local authority is unhelpful and hostile to us and where a property developer has preferential treatment.”

He said: “If it is true that Lewisham Council remains intent on the use of CPOs – in spite of Lewisham Labour’s elected mayoral candidate, Damien Egan, publicly stating that he opposed such a move – to seize the leases on the land around The Den in order to sell the freeholds of that land to Renewal, then we will continue to defend our position robustly.”

Berylson confirmed, however, that Millwall would participate in redevelopment of the area if allowed to play a key part in a community-oriented scheme.

The statement reads: “We remain firmly in favour of the development of the site adjoining our stadium and we re-confirm our wish to be a participant in that project for the overall benefit of this community. The Council claimed more than five years ago that only Renewal could deliver the development project; so far Renewal has delivered nothing. Surely it is time for the Council to consider a better way to get things done rather than further delay the process with the use of CPOs?”

Lewisham Council have contested the rumours that it plans on reintroducing the CPOs over the Millwall land.

Councillor Joe Dromey said: “The council has been clear the CPO has been abandoned. Talk of Millwall FC leaving Lewisham is unhelpful and unnecessary.” He added: “They belong in Lewisham.”

Lewisham council tweeted: “We are proud that Millwall FC has called Lewisham home since 1910 and want them to stay here for generations to come.”

Berylson’s 13-page-long letter to Lord Dyson outlines a list of grievances with the handling and outcome of the inquiry.

The documents furthermore reveal that Millwall has launched an appeal against some of the decisions made at a Freedom of Information Tribunal in June 2017, which found that the land sale price to Renewal should remain confidential.

Berylson said: “We learnt that Lord Dyson based some of his findings on the conclusions of the Freedom of Information Tribunal, hence I have pointed out to him that that judgement contained errors of fact.

“It was not appropriate for Lord Dyson to draw conclusions from an incomplete legal process.”

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