In a decision that has angered Millwall Football Club and many fans, Lewisham Council has sold the land surrounding the club’s stadium to develop a major sports village in the Surrey Canal Triangle.
The decision came after a number of years of negotiation. The resulting development will include the creation of 2,000 jobs, a new London Overground station, two bus routes, housing and a new park at Bridgehouse Meadows.
John Berylson, chairman of Millwall PLC and a venture capital investor from the United States, was “appalled and bewildered by the behaviour of the Council towards Millwall FC.” He claims the club was not consulted fully by the council about the sale.
A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said that the decision to sell the land, which it owns, ensures the full regeneration of the Surrey Canal area, and takes into consideration the long-term future of the football club.
Renewal, the developer overseeing the sports village project, has invested £60 million pounds in the area to date. It claims that it maintained weekly detailed correspondence with Millwall FC since autumn 2013.
Jordana Malik, a Director at Renewal said: “Mr. Berylson’s claim that Millwall has not been consulted is disingenuous.”
Berylson said: “Millwall makes significant financial losses and our long-term survival at the Den [club stadium] depends upon our rights…to develop non-football revenues.” These revenues come from assets held on leases for adjacent lands that will now be sold to Renewal.
He accuses Lewisham Council of not considering the club’s own plans and declining to share the commercial information needed by the club to make its own purchase bid. This has made the club “feel isolated, unsupported by our local authority and angry.”
Millwall have said that they commissioned architects to develop plans for the development of the area adjoining its stadium in 2013.
A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said: “[Millwall FC] have never presented developed plans, any kind of business case, bought any land or submitted any planning application for redevelopment despite having every opportunity to do so.”
Berylson is now urging the Council to look at the club’s own plans for the area in a new proposal presented on February 5.
Though the club has expressed concerns for its future since the sale was agreed, Lewisham Council is satisfied with the covenant in the club’s lease, which states that the stadium is to be maintained, and nothing but football is to be played there.
Renewal is bound by Section 106 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act’s Affordable Housing Requirements, which stipulates that a developer making more than 14 homes must invest in new infrastructure, such as transport, health and leisure facilities, and schools.
Millwall FC is a co-signatory of this agreement, but Jordana Malik, a director at Renewal, said: “Renewal is taking full obligation for costs.”
She added: “Renewal has been investing in the area for a decade and Millwall FC have had this amount of time to bring forward viable and realistic offers for the land they wished to acquire.”
Malik explained that since 2006, Renewal and Lewisham Council have been in regular dialogue with Millwall FC and its owners.
Millwall FC previously put in a request to Lewisham Council to receive a piece of land adjacent to the stadium at no cost. Lewisham Council deemed the request as disrespectful in the current financial environment.
Renewal, who also bought this area in the final sale, said: “No council should or can underwrite a wealthy businessman’s losses.”