THE chair of Lewisham Council’s overview and scrutiny committee, Alan Hall, has said a property developer’s initial plans for the redevelopment of land around Millwall have “fallen apart in slow motion in front of our very eyes”, after the club this week admitted it could be forced to relocate.
It is the first time Millwall have publicly communicated concerns over their long-term future in Bermondsey.
It is the latest twist in the current ongoing saga related to the proposed sale of three pieces of land around the stadium to property developers Renewal that already threatens the viability of the Millwall Community Trust.
Last month’s December meeting of the council was adjourned after the club presented a letter from the Football League confirming its current academy status would be threatened if it didn’t have 24-hour access to an AstroTurf pitch currently housed in the Lions Centre.
Millwall run a Category Two academy and compete with Premier League and Championship sides. A downgrading of that status would effectively mean competing at division four or five level and impact the club’s ability to develop top-class players.
Millwall chief executive Steve Kavanagh has written to Lewisham Council chief executive Barry Quirk asking for confirmation of Renewal’s proposed arrangements for the Energize sports centre.
Until Thursday, Millwall hadn’t alluded publicly to their long-term future possibly lying away from its current home of more than 100 years in the event of the loss of land on which their car park, the Lions Centre and the Millwall Café, as well as a number of business, stand.
In a statement, Kavanagh said, “The chairman has always been determined that this would never happen, but under such circumstances any and every option would have to be considered to secure the football club and the Millwall Community Trust’s future as viable concerns.”
Millwall supporters group AMS have also written an open letter to Barry Quirke with concerns arising from their investigation of the relationship between Renewal and former mayor Dave Sullivan, among a number of questionable links between the council and the property developer in the scheme.
It states: “Failure to listen to genuine concerns could, we fear, lead to Millwall Football Club’s loss of academy status as recognised by the EFL and, ultimately, the club being forced to relocate from the London Borough of Lewisham.”
Today, Cllr Hall told NewsAtDen: “Millwall Football Club are part of the cultural history of London and Lewisham with over 100 years in the borough.
“Over the past five years Renewal's original outline planning application has fallen apart in slow motion in front of our very eyes.
“Renewal was going to pay for the new station at Surrey Canal Road – the taxpayer is now funding that; there was a multi-faith centre planned for Lewisham's diverse communities – that is now a cathedral-sized church for Christian evangelists from Australia. And the ever-shrinking proposed 'sporting village' will drive away one of football's most famous clubs and its highly successful community scheme providing opportunities for Lewisham's young people.
“That is bad enough but is also on top of the many questions surrounding governance, due diligence and ownership of Renewal that remain unanswered to this day.”
The next cabinet council meeting to discuss concerns and potentially push through the compulsory purchase order will take place at Catford Town Hall next Wednesday, January 11.
Image: Millwall FC