Last week, Millwall Football Club received confirmation from Lewisham Council that a proposal for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) will be placed before the cabinet concerning three pieces of land surrounding the football club grounds. This would then allow the land to be transferred to “Renewal” for development.
Back in February of this year, the Millwall Chairman sent an email to Lewisham Council listing a number of questions which were not been answered then or now. The heart of the questions is why did the council decline to allow us to bid for the freeholds of the properties that we already lease. Preferring instead to offer them exclusively to “Renewal”? And why didn’t the cabinet disclose the price at which it proposes to sell the land to “Renewal”.
Why Lewisham has chosen to partner with an opaque developer whose ultimate holding companies are registered off shore. And one according to the council CPO report “is ultimately controlled by a family trust” as well as “is ultimately controlled by a charitable trust. The Council also admits that there are no audited accounts for the parent shareholders by reason of them not being based in the UK. So who are these beneficiaries that apparently cannot be identified?
Millwall by contrast is a transparent well financed and local football club.
Last February a 20,000 plus petition stopped Lewisham Council in its tracks. To say they were surprised would be an understatement. The CPO was never discussed as it was agreed by all parties to take a step back and re-examine where they were.
The Millwall Supporters Club (MSC) at its monthly meetings with the Club, were informed that discussions were taking place to see if some compromise could be worked out. Yet we found out last Thursday night that the Council had only notified the Club, a couple of days before and we also found out that “Renewal” had point blank refused to talk to Millwall.
The question which needs to be asked of the Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, is; was he aware that “Renewal” refused to talk to Millwall; assuming that he was what did he do to try and get “Renewal” to change their stance. If he has done nothing that tells me that he and “Renewal” were going through the motions. You do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to work it out – it is not what Holmes would have called “a three-pipe problem”.
The Millwall Community Trust (MCT) which was founded by the Club has seen many thousands of disadvantaged young people enrolled in its excellent work and its value to the community was recently noted in an independent report. It was calculated that last year alone the MCT’s ‘work delivered a minimum cost saving of more than £7 million to local communities. The MCT very future is threatened by this!
Should Lewisham council grant the CPO; they would be signing the death certificate for the MCT. “Renewal” frankly does not care about the MCT as there is no profit in it for them. Lewisham Council know this.
The Chairman of Millwall has stated if the CPO is granted by Lewisham Council then the Clubs advisors are to draw up plans to seek planning permission. Doing this will not only future proof Millwall and offer security to the surrounding businesses threatened by the CPO and also protect the MCT.
It guarantees the future of the draw at The Den and allows for expansion should we gain promotion. It would mean all modern safety regulations would be in operation. It would provide for free accommodation and the facilities to the MCT. It offers space on reasonable terms for the Millwall Café, Zampa Fish, & the Rollins Street Residents. We have even offered to share any profit, “Renewal” have not.
“Renewal” has no track record in carrying out a major development project. Two of its directors are former teachers with apparently no experience of housing or regeneration.
John Berlyson, Millwall’s Chairman is on record as having said, “If the council grant the use of CPO’s, I am committed to fighting it all the way. I have to for the sake of our club and its future at The Den, for our fans, our neighbours and friends.”