Southwark has not yet made a decision on Meadow Residential’s current planning application 19/AP/1867 for a new stadium for Dulwich Hamlet Football Club and 224 new homes. The pitch and associated infrastructure would be built on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), part of which is a proposed Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).
Green Dale Fields is a unique 5 ha remnant of a former expanse of playing fields that is now being managed for both wildlife and people following years of neglect and the natural processes of re-wilding. Southwark Council installed accessible paths and benches in 2019 which has hugely increased the number of people using the site for walking, running, cycling and blackberry picking. The area of the proposed development, part of which is astroturf MOL, is well used by children and families for free, informal and inclusive play.
The proposals would result in not only the existing astroturf area being used for a new FA standard pitch, but also an additional 3016 m2 of land, part of which falls within the new SINC proposed for Green Dale Fields. A high and visually impermeable fence would obstruct long views across the open space and beyond, and significantly impinge on its sense of openness. Public open space proposed by the development is necessarily distributed around the site and would not therefore support the same diverse uses that the current large open space does.
The planners at GLA have advised the Council that “very special circumstances” exist that outweigh the impacts on the openness of MOL, and therefore the proposal could be supported in principle (subject to securing community use and other requirements). They consider that the proposed playing surface itself is an appropriate replacement for the current five a side astroturf pitches, but that the associated fencing and screening is not ‘appropriate development’ due to its harmful impact on the openness of the MOL. They identify the Football Association’s requirement for enclosing the ground with a boundary of at least 1.83m, including measures to restrict viewing from outside the ground, and providing floodlighting to be “very special circumstances” that would outweigh the impacts on the openness of MOL.
- The redevelopment of the Dulwich Hamlet Football Club Stadium should not be at the expense of much used and valued natural open space, including a well-used community football pitch (which would be replaced by a MUGA a fraction of the size and which would have to be booked). Open space such as this is a rare commodity in inner London and is protected for good reasons – as you know it is of vital importance in supporting the well-being of the city’s growing population, protecting species on the borough’s Biodiversity Action Plan, and in facing the climate emergency.
- The new stadium will be enclosed and you have correctly advised that this is inappropriate development on MOL (impacting as it will on the openness of the MOL). However, you have said that this is acceptable because the FA requires a stadium to be enclosed. This is a circular and incorrect argument: the correct conclusion should be that any football club stadium development is inappropriate on MOL, in light of it needing to be enclosed with fencing/screening. It is also inappropriate because the enclosure means it can no longer be enjoyed by the general public. And the amenity value of the remaining MOL for the public and as a SINC is also severely compromised. These aspects of ‘harm’ have not been properly recognised.
- Alternative options have not been exhaustively investigated for the upgrading of the existing DHFC stadium or redevelopment of the existing stadium site without development on MOL.
- The conclusion that there are “very special circumstances” that would outweigh the harm to MOL are premature in light of the above and in any event there is no clear assessment of the harm, which ought to include not simply to the openness but to the amenity value including community provision but also in tackling the climate emergency.
Please email your comments to: email@example.com by 14th February quoting their document reference GLA/0083c/01.