Four out of five candidates in the running to be Lewisham’s next mayor have said they would not support a fresh CPO of Millwall FC land.
The football club wrote an open letter to each candidate, asking questions about their views and policies regarding the New Bermondsey/Surrey Canal Triangle regeneration project.
Earlier this year, Lewisham Council performed a U-turn on plans to compulsory purchase land used by Millwall for its community trust, youth academy, car park and café, to sell to developer Renewal for its New Bermondsey scheme.
The move followed a number of allegations, including that Surrey Canal Sports Foundation – the charity at the heart of the development – had falsely claimed to have secured £2million of Sport England funding.
In response to Millwall’s letter, councillors Alan Hall, Brenda Dacres, Paul Bell and Damien Egan have all confirmed they would not support a fresh CPO or the sale of the freeholds of the Millwall land.
However Paul Maslin, a councillor for New Cross, the electoral ward Millwall lies in, said he would support a fresh CPO and the sale of the freeholds of the Millwall land – excluding the stadium.
And when asked whether he would support the club’s ambition to have an involvement in regenerating the land around the stadium, Cllr Maslin requested the club published its plans and intentions for the land so they could be “subject to public and professional scrutiny”.
“Enough of this war of words, of claim and counter claim,” he wrote. “Publish the details of this scheme that you are being prevented from developing.
“Let’s have a proper debate about its pros and cons.”
Cllr Alan Hall, chair of Lewisham’s overview and scrutiny committee, pledged to restore the relationship between the council and the club in his response. “I believe that Millwall FC has a record second to none in relation to community work and I have seen the value of this across Lewisham,” he said.
Brenda Dacres, also a councillor for New Cross ward, said she did not believe council land should be sold off.
“I was not in favour of the compulsory purchase order before I became a councillor, and that has been my stance throughout,” she said. “Council land should be used to build council homes, and homes with truly affordable rents.”
And Cllr Damien Egan said the council should “start all over with a comprehensive review of all proposals from all interested parties, including MFC and MCT [Millwall Community Trust] for the future of the New Bermondsey site”. “My policy on all council owned land is that it should never be sold to private developers,” he added.
Millwall FC chief executive Steve Kavanagh expressed his support for the four candidates who confirmed they opposed a fresh CPO and said he hoped the club would remain an active member of the community. “We wish the four supportive candidates well in their election campaign and look forward to working with a new mayor and cabinet which we hope will be friendly, co-operative and supportive of Millwall Football Club and Millwall Community Trust, and everything we bring to the local community,” he said in a statement.
“It is our ambition to remain here and play an active part in regenerating this area and supporting this community.
“That’s what we have been doing for many years, and I would like to think that we can continue to do so for many more. Long after the cranes, bulldozers and developers have gone, I hope Millwall will still be here as an active member of a thriving community.”