Sky Bet League Two side, AFC Wimbledon, has been given the green light to proceed with a planning application for a new stadium on their old Plough Lane ground.
A potential return to the Club’s spiritual home came a major step nearer after an independent inspector’s report confirmed the Plough Lane site could be used for “Sporting Intensification”. The endorsement of Merton Council’s proposed designation of the site means AFC Wimbledon can take the next steps towards submitting a planning application for a football stadium on the site.
The Club and its partner, Galliard Homes, have been working on preparations for public consultations, dates of which will be announced shortly. These will offer the first opportunity to view the Club’s detailed plans for Plough Lane.
AFC Wimbledon’s Chief Executive, Erik Samuelson, said:
We are delighted with the inspector’s conclusions. We can now move to the next stage of the process. There is still a long way to go and a lot of hard work to be done, but this is a significant moment in our plans to return to Wimbledon.
The Club, Greyhound Racing Authority Acquisition Ltd and Galliard Homes are working in close partnership to ensure the timely delivery of the proposals. It is anticipated that the proposed development will be constructed in phases, providing a new 20,000-seat football stadium with an initial capacity of 11,000 seats in the first phase of development.
The proposed development includes:
Demolition of the current stadium
To build (in stages) a high-quality 20,000-seat stadium suitable for Championship level football. The initial stadium will open with a capacity of c.11,000 seats, including hospitality
Approximately 600 new homes with basement parking, to be delivered by Galliard Homes
A squash/fitness club with contemporary training facilities
Local retail space
Approximately 330 car parking spaces and cycle parking
High quality landscaping throughout
The plans will give AFC Wimbledon the opportunity to return to its historic home on Plough Lane after an absence of over 20 years.
AFC Wimbledon: The back story
AFC Wimbledon is very different from most football clubs. It was founded by, and is owned by, its fans. The Club was formed in the summer of 2002 after an FA commission shocked football fans everywhere by allowing the old Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes. Determined not to let a proud 104-year history die, Dons supporters organised themselves and within just six weeks AFC Wimbledon – a club the commission had declared would be “not in the wider interests of football” – was born.
AFC Wimbledon’s opening match in the Combined Counties League, five levels below the Football league, attracted 2,449 fans to Sandhurst Town’s Bottom Meadow ground, where some fans watched the game standing on bales of hay. After an astonishing rise through the football pyramid, the club gained promotion to the Football League from the Conference National in 2011 by winning the play-off final in Manchester. From inception to the Football League, as the fans sing, ‘it only took nine years’.
The rise of AFC Wimbledon has brought inevitable comparisons with their illustrious predecessors’ climb from the Southern League to the old First Division during the 1970s and 80s. That long run of success in the top division culminated in a victory over Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final.
While proudly retaining Wimbledon FC’s history, AFC Wimbledon is a very different club from the old Crazy Gang. Being owned by its supporters gives it a strength of commitment to its home community, Wimbledon, that has never wavered since it was formed. The involvement of supporters also gives it a unique family-friendly culture with fans at the heart of its activities, as illustrated by the large numbers of fans who give up their time to run the club.
After 12 years of unbroken success, the Club is now limited in the success it can achieve on the pitch and in its community work unless it can move to a new stadium back in its heartland.