Football has been played at Dulwich Hamlet since 1893 - the club is in the Isthmian League, but the number of supporters has been falling in recent years and the present stadium, with its three floors in the main stand, has long been a massive financial drain. The current owners have begun a public consultation process to build a new football ground on Greendale (the first presentation was on 19 July), the open area to the west of the stadium which is currently designated as Metropolitan Open Land. The club has a lease for Greendale from Southwark Council until 2015.
The club moved into the present stadium in 1992, following the demolition of the old Champion Hill Stadium – now the site of the Sainsbury’s supermarket. As part of that development a Section 106 Agreement was signed between Southwark Council, J Sainsbury and Kings College London (the then freeholders) to restrict use of the club site to recreational, leisure or educational purposes.
In 2008 Kings’ College, the long standing freeholders, sold the freehold to DHPD Ltd (a property company). In 2010 they made a planning application for 60 flats on the car park (ref 11-AP-2250). The scheme was withdrawn in November 2010 probably because the Council said there was no chance of an approval. A further scheme was submitted in 2011 (ref 11-AP-2280). It was rejected in February 2012 on the grounds that building on Metropolitan Open Land would contravene council policies.
In May 2012, DHPD Ltd. went into administration. The freehold was bought by Hadley Property Group in February 2014 and, shortly afterwards, Hadley took day to control of the club and paid off a significant number of the club’s debts. The firm has made no secret that it is looking to redevelop some or all of the current ground, with the club being moved to more appropriate facilities nearby.
In summary then, there have been two relatively recent planning applications to develop the existing stadium site and move the football ground onto Greendale and they have all been turned down as contravening the Council’s policy on development on MOL. None have been tested at appeal.
Is there anything different about the current proposal other than the implied threat that is the scheme does not go ahead the club will close? The answer is no and, while residents might regret the loss of the football club, the consequences for the surrounding area for allowing development on MOL are very serious. We cannot allow a precedent to be set. The Council needs to stand by its policies and, in fairness, up till now it has done so, and Peter John, the leader of the Council is recently on record as saying that there will be no development on Greendale because it is MOL. Hadley should go elsewhere.