Millwall Football Club has called for the CPO of land surrounding its stadium to be “formally cancelled” after it emerged that it has merely been postponed.
Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock released a statement last week to say that the CPO of land used by Millwall for its community trust, youth academy, car park and café “should not proceed”.
Barry Quirk, Lewisham Council chief executive, also announced that he was “urgently putting arrangements in place to secure an independent external review” into the charity at the heart of the development which could see the land built on if the CPO goes ahead.
However, at a meeting on Tuesday, January 31, Lewisham’s overview and scrutiny business panel discussed the fact that the CPO had been postponed – not cancelled.
Millwall is now calling for the council to outline their formal position on the CPO as soon as possible.
“Millwall Football Club is deeply concerned that the council has yet to clarify formally what its position is on the CPO process,” the club said in a statement today, Friday.
“At its meeting on January 31, the overview and scrutiny business panel discussed the fact that the CPO appears to be merely postponed, not cancelled, and that it remains the mayor and cabinet’s intention to bring back a fresh CPO plan in due course.
“We also have grave concerns that the investigation that the council says it will undertake into the funding of the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation (SCSF) and related matters will not be adequately independent nor transparent.
“Millwall Football Club is not interested in being a guinea pig within this deeply-flawed process”
“It needs to look at the full background to the New Bermondsey scheme, the role of the council, along with its close ties with Renewal, and finally the misleading information that has been put in the public domain about Energize, the proposed new sports centre.
“We welcome the decisions made by the overview and scrutiny business panel and we fully support the manner in which they are approaching these issues.
“We too believe it is critical for the officers of Lewisham Council to outline their formal position on the CPO in relation to New Bermondsey as soon as possible.
“We agree that the full council should have to approve the status, terms of reference and scope of an investigation.
“We welcome the council’s announcement that the CPO cannot be implemented; however, it seems that the door has been left wide open and the council is minded to look at a fresh CPO decision.
“We believe that the CPO should be formally cancelled rather than left up in the air, thereby potentially leaving the club, Millwall Community Trust, local businesses and residents in limbo.
“Millwall Football Club has always supported the regeneration of this area and has offered to play its part. We have made it clear on numerous occasions that we are ready to participate in a scheme which will appropriately benefit the borough and the community at large.
“With the football club at the heart of the community, as the driving force behind the regeneration, we believe this can bring substantial benefits for everyone in a timely and efficient manner.
“One senior council officer clearly stated in December 2016 that the council had never used CPO powers in this way on behalf of a property developer before.
“‘We are learning on this one,’ we were told.”
Millwall Chief executive Steve Kavanagh said: “To date we have seen little evidence that the council genuinely wishes the club to be at the heart of the proposed development and at the core of the new community.
“We have been subjected to dismissive and hostile attitudes by the mayor and cabinet and many of its officers throughout the process which has created a toxic environment that has not benefited any party involved.
“It is now the council’s responsibility to restore the club’s faith and trust in its council and to create a situation that recognises the positive aspects the club and its community can bring to this regeneration.”
John Berylson, Millwall’s chairman, added: “Millwall Football Club is not interested in being a guinea pig within this deeply-flawed process.”
The overview and scrutiny business panel – made up of the chairs of all the council’s scrutiny committees – made the following recommendations:
- Officers of Lewisham Council must now outline the formal position of the CPOs in relation to New Bermondsey and MFC
- The full council must agree the status of the investigation or inquiry into the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation including the Terms of Reference and Membership
- Concerns about the “investigation” into Lambeth Smith Hampton’s sales brochure of the site, which significantly delayed the scrutiny process, must now be formally heard by the cabinet and addressed
- The planning Section 106 agreement related to New Bermondsey needs to be returned to the council members of the Strategic Planning Committee
- The full details and information on the New Bermondsey Housing Action Zone must no longer be withheld from councillors and should be disclosed forthwith
Cllr Alan Hall, chair of overview and scrutiny, said: “This is the first meeting since the public cabinet announcements over the Millwall CPOs. We want to make sure that the council’s proper processes are followed to give crystal-clear clarity that these CPOs are now over and done with.
“In my view it is essential that the cabinet make a formal decision next week otherwise they will continue to make business and residents suffer with the CPO ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over their heads.”
A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said: “The September 2016 CPO decision has no force and cannot be implemented, full stop.
“Any regeneration of the area, proposed by anyone would require a completely new and fresh decision by the council.”