Published on May 15, 2014 | by Richard Wilder

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Den land deal: the mystery continues

The Den

The surrounding areas of Millwall FC stadium to be sold to business group [Flickr: Paul Hudson]

The sale of three pieces of land surrounding Millwall FC’s stadium, The Den, has caused uproar in recent weeks, with Millwall Chairman John Berylson displaying his disbelief at Lewisham council’s reasoning for selling it on to local development group Renewal.

Located just two miles down the Old Kent Road from LCC, Millwall FC have highlighted the importance the land has to the long term development and sustainability of the club; continuing to express the club’s ambition and interest in working with Lewisham council and the Surrey Canal project throughout the past few years, as expressed in Millwall FC Chairman, John Berylson’s official statement released last month:

“I read that the Club ‘failed to provide any meaningful detailed evidence of its proposals’. This is of course nonsense. Millwall commissioned architects to draw up plans for the area around The Den as far back as 2006 – before any sale of the freeholds materialised and before planning permission for the whole area had been granted.”

Lewisham Deputy Mayor and current cabinet member for the regeneration, Alan Smith, disputes Berylson’s claims and explains that Millwall failed to act when required.

“The Council has been in open discussion over many years with a number of partners involved in the comprehensive regeneration of the Surrey Canal area including Millwall FC and Rail for London.

“Over this time, several different options have been considered but unfortunately the Club has never shown us how they would deliver an acceptable scheme. Had the Club provided this then we might now be in a different situation.

“As a result, we have given due consideration to the only serious proposition on the table and have recently agreed the conditional sale of the land with a local developer, Renewal.”

However, Smith’s comments are contradicted in Berylson’s statement, with the Millwall Chairmen claiming the club was ignored in its attempts to submit a bid for the land.

“I have made it clear elsewhere, and I shall make it clear again here, that Millwall has been open and transparent in all its dealings with Lewisham Council.

“That’s why our lawyers wrote to the Council on 25th September 2013 challenging the decision to sell the land to Renewal, and why our property advisers wrote to the Council on 7th November formally confirming the Club’s wish to be permitted to bid for the land.

“On 13th November the Council responded refusing to provide Millwall with the information we required in order to make our bid. We were told that the Council had secured the best deal for the land even though Renewal was the only bidder.

Despite selling the land to Renewal Lewisham council claim they have not forgotten the importance of Millwall FC to the local community and have ensured that the club will still profit from the regeneration.

“Through our negotiations, we have already secured a commitment that will benefit Millwall fans and the Club with the building of a new train station next to the ground and improved access to South Bermondsey station (just 2.6 miles from Camberwell College of Arts).

“The Club’s ability to enlarge the capacity of the ground is guaranteed and brand new facilities for the Millwall Community Scheme will be created which will benefit both Southwark and Lewisham residents.”

With two conflicting stories developing it seems that somewhere down the line there has been a big misunderstanding. Councillor Smith’s insistence that Millwall failed to act when appropriate would leave you believing this was a case of poor administration from Millwall. But this doesn’t seem to fit, with the Millwall Chairman openly displaying the importance the land has to club, along with revealing the exact process the club took in trying to acquire the land.

Lewisham Council believe they have shown their commitment to the future of Millwall Football Club in the borough through this sale, claiming the futures of Millwall FC and the Millwall Community Scheme are both safeguarded in the sale to Renewal. However, Millwall FC continue to fight the case, claiming they have been omitted from the financial gains that will come from the regeneration project.

“As things stand, we have been excluded from the benefits of the Surrey Canal Triangle development. Our stadium is shown at the core of the plans and we are expected to carry on staging football matches and investing more money in The Den whilst the Council does deals with a private property developer and expects us to stand on the touchline and cheer.

“That’s not my style. I don’t want a fight with anybody, but I shall stand up and be counted for Millwall Football Club.”

Renewal’s redevelopment works will commence at the end of 2014.

 

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