Lewisham Council are expected to give a green light to an independent inquiry into circumstances surrounding a proposed purchase and development of a sports facility on land around The Den, Millwall FC’s stadium, costing the taxpayer around £500,000.
The council had unofficially proposed an input of £500,000 to the new facility entitled “Energize”, with Sport England proposing to contribute £2million towards the project, to be managed by local charitable organisation Surrey Canal Foundation Trust (SCFT).
However, the inquiry relates to claims published in The Guardian that “Sport England do not support SCFT”, and intends to discover “ whether the Council was misled by SCFT, Renewal”. Renewal, an offshore development company who back SCFT, have previously admitted to “jumping the gun” in its promise of support from Sport England in order to secure £20million from the Mayor of London.
Sport England told the Guardian: “In 2010 we received a funding application from the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation but this was subsequently withdrawn in 2013. We therefore have no funding agreement, of any kind, in place with them.” Indeed the Guardian has learnt that in September 2014 Sport England wrote to Surrey Canal Sports Foundation and asked it to stop reporting that money had been pledged.
To observers, the involvement of SCFT and Renewal in the scheme may now be questioned, due to these allegations. However, in a recent statement, Renewal insists that “at no stage has Renewal nor the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation suggested to any third party that a legally binding funding agreement was in place with Sport England”.
The inquiry would also seek “To consider statements made by Renewal/SCFT to the Council in relation to funding pledges from other sources and to establish whether those statements were misleading”, and “The propriety or otherwise of the behaviour of all Members and officers involved in all stages of the process of consideration of the proposed CPO”.
Plans for the purchase of the land had been dropped earlier this month, amid pressure from locals and supporters of Millwall FC, who believed that the development would threaten the community work undertaken by the club.