Lions chief makes robust defence of development plans

© Kieran Galvin
© Kieran Galvin

CHAIRMAN John Berylson has issued a robust defence of Millwall's regeneration plans following criticism from Lewisham Council and developers Renewal.

The Lions claim they were excluded from the process which has seen three pieces of land adjoining The Den sold by the local authority to the private property developer.

The club's own proposals for the area were ignored by the council – but last week it was claimed Millwall's plans amounted to a mere 156-word document.



Renewal said in a statement that the Lions had not put forward a "viable business plan", despite repeated requests from Lewisham Council.

But Berylson has today branded that accusation "nonsense". In a lengthy and detailed press release, the American businessman stated that:

  • Millwall have been challenging the sale of the land since last September
  • The council refused to provide the club with the information required to make their own bid
  • Architects have been working on the Lions' plans since 2006
  • He "has more than enough money" to finance the club's plans
  • The club is "very concerned" about the future of the Millwall Community Scheme

The statement, in full, reads:



"I am most surprised to find Renewal, a private property developer, issuing a statement apparently on behalf of Lewisham Council about Millwall’s dealings with the Council over the potential sale of land adjoining The Den.

"In its statement Renewal refers to correspondence and meetings between Millwall and the Council. This seems most irregular.

"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.

"Jordana Malik, a director and spokesperson of Renewal, is quoted as being "perplexed as to why those in charge at the club are claiming they have had no knowledge of the land sale".

"I'm perplexed that she should say that. Millwall has never made such a claim. Indeed we have made it clear that we were fully aware of the Council’s plans to sell the land.

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

"On November 13 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 permitted bidder.

"We made one final attempt on December 6 when our lawyers wrote again to the Council asking them to stop the sale. But the Council ignored us again and exchanged contracts with Renewal for the sale of the three parcels of land on 20 December. They informed us three days later.

"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 long ago as 2006 – before any sale of the freeholds materialised and before planning permission for the whole area had been granted.

"In order to ensure that our plans were fully in keeping with the overall agreed scheme for the Surrey Canal Triangle, we commissioned leading architects Mackay and Partners last year to review our existing plans and refine them into a revised proposal for the development of the three areas of land adjoining the stadium.

"Those plans were presented to the Council on August 15 in as much detail as could reasonably be expected at that stage.

"It was made clear that the plans fitted with the outline planning permission, that Chestnut Hill Ventures (Millwall's largest shareholder) had more than enough money to carry out the development without recourse to any third party funding and that the Club could offer legally binding guarantees that the development would be completed within an agreed timescale.

"What other business case could the Council possibly have wanted at that stage?

"If the Council had deigned to consider the Club's plans, the next stage would have been to refine the business case in conjunction with the Council and its advisers but there was no point in doing that – given the considerable further costs involved – if the Council wasn't prepared to play ball.

"Renewal said on February 5 that they had never even been shown our plans, yet they seem to be full of opinions about them.

"Chestnut Hill Ventures is not a property developer. That's why, in order to strengthen the Club's finances, we have engaged top professional advisors who have managed property developments of this size.

"We are attacked for not submitting planning applications and not acquiring land. We aren’t interested in acquiring land other than the areas adjoining The Den.

"Once the Council made it clear that those areas were to be sold, we formally asked to be allowed to bid for them. We had no need of planning permission because it had already been granted for the whole area.

"We have invested more than £3 million in helping that whole process and in our own plans, as well as in protecting the interests of the Club.

"Assurances are being given about our community scheme. But the Council and Renewal don't seem to understand the nature of its funding and how it operates.

"Although the Council and Renewal can match our offer of a new home and new sports facilities, only we can guarantee the financial support and access to the Football League funding on which it depends.

"Furthermore, the viability of the Millwall Community Scheme is not just about its funding. It's also about its direct links to the Club and our resources – the provision of coaching staff, player involvement, the use of our facilities and tickets for our matches. We are very concerned about its long term future.

"Finally, I will reiterate the point that is behind all of this. Chestnut Hill Ventures has supported Millwall for the last seven years since I became Chairman and I have expressed my personal commitment to the Club, and to its home at The Den, many times.

"I am a huge fan and I have the most expensive season ticket! In the long term, Millwall Football Club needs to be a viable commercial enterprise, and that means that it needs non-football income that is stable and secure.

"We always assumed that we would be left to develop the land adjoining our stadium. The Council has said that we are at the heart of the community and core to their strategic plans for the Borough.

"So in good faith we have played our part, and incurred substantial costs, in supporting the overall plans for this urban regeneration. We haven’t been greedy. We have offered the Council a stake in our proposed developments.

"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.

"Meanwhile, 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."

Alex Aldridge

(@accordingtoaldo)

37 thoughts on “Lions chief makes robust defence of development plans

  • February 17, 2014 at 11:49
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    A TRUE CHAIRMAN WITH MILLWALL AT HEART!

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  • February 17, 2014 at 11:52
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    It's all public knowledge nowadays and if you take a look into it with detail as I have I'v3e found documents from the council from 5 or 6 years ago with Millwall's signature agreeing to Renewals plans and now we are pulling the plug? The difference is once its all signed its too late!

    We apparently appealed against all of this but after meetings agreed to it?

    Sort this out Wall!

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    • February 17, 2014 at 12:15
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      @Omer Ronayne: Get behind John on this mate. No point being over critical about the past now, what's done is done. JB and Millwall are clearly not property developers so probably can't compete in that environment aswell as the Renwals of this world, who have former council members on there board! We had no chance whatever amount of money / time we would have spent on it!!
      Personally I think even if it's a massive earner for JB it's better for the club that he (and we) get the profits instead of some faceless property group who will suck us dry long term despite there promises.
      Fans unity against the council and behind JB for the greater good of Millwall. Even if it's blind support, I'm sure the council and renewal are going to start throwing mud if this goes through the courts. We don't need to be doing there work for them.

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      • February 17, 2014 at 12:24
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        @bigC: I'm totally with the club on this fella. But the facts are so to speak we've messed up. this was in the pipelines years ago and we at first agreed to it not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. We cant do that and screw ourselves over.
        I'm a massive fan of JB and thank him for what he has done for this club since he has been here.

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        • February 17, 2014 at 16:24
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          @Omer Ronayne: maybe the process wasn't followed to the letter but that is to ignore that fact that Lewisham council could have accepted Millwalls willingness to bid and they could have made the effort to involve our club. I am astounded that the Council got the best bid they could when there was only one bidder, it defies logic to make such a claim.

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  • February 17, 2014 at 12:05
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    WE ARE BEHIND YOU ALL THE WAY......................
    SIGNED UP LIKE MANY THOUSANDS ALREADY HAVE..................
    " NO ONE LIKES US, WE DON'T CARE "
    THE STORM.........................WANTS TO STAY PUT.

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  • February 17, 2014 at 12:19
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    Is your caps lock me broken or are you just a noisy c***?

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    • February 17, 2014 at 12:31
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      @benzo:
      He reckons his caps lock key is broken and cant afford a new keyboard.

      Little does he know there is no caps lock key on his smart phone. Its not meant to have buttons, dont pull him up on it too much or else he asks to 'buy you a pint' which i can only assume from his past behaviour leads to an attempt at sex.

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    • February 17, 2014 at 13:15
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      @benzo: ain't it f****** annoying lol i wonder if the c*** SHOUTS AT EVERYONE HE TALKS TO

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    • February 17, 2014 at 15:41
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      @benzo: RIGHT FOLKS IT SEEMS THE TWO IDIOTS ( BENZO & LIONS CLAW ) ARE BACK. THEY NEVER SEEM TO GO TO MILLWALL GAME OR WANNA SUPPORT LIONS FANS, BUT ALWAYS WANT TO CRITICISE ON HERE. YOU TWO WANNA CLEAR OFF TO WEST HAM OR LEEDS UTD WHERE YOU BELONG, AND LEAVE THE "WALL" ALONE. NO ONE LIKES US, WE DONT CARE. STORMIN' NORMAN...........STRIKES AGAIN - GRRRROO
      LLLLLLL..

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      • February 17, 2014 at 16:11
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        @bermlion: The Bushwacker boys are with you Norm, if you need any help. We can track the IDIOTS down in no time. They will wish the did not have any Visitors.

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      • February 17, 2014 at 16:29
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        @bermlion: It is really annoying.... you and Mo Slater needs to sort their keyboards out!!!!!!

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        • February 17, 2014 at 16:59
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          @Bradders: Bradders, nobody forces you to come on here, nobody forces you to read post on here, just scroll past. But well done on not calling a fellow Millwall fan a four letter word, like the others. Which is why we want to find them.

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      • February 17, 2014 at 18:08
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        @bermlion: I could be wrong, but I reckon some of this lot are trying to wind you up! As long as you shout your head off at the games- I DON'T CARE!.................. COLDBLOW10 ............................. BACKS THE STORM AND DON'T MIND BROKEN KEYBOARDS!!!!! COYL!!!!!! MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

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      • February 17, 2014 at 18:26
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        @bermlion:
        I go to plenty of millwall games Bermlion.
        If anyone notices my posts they'd tell you that usually Im either sitting on the fence or offering support.

        I called you out on your habbit of typing everything in capslock because it makes you seem really iggnorant.

        I come on here to talk football and banter occasionally like a lot of people here. Stop being so touchy, you might even have some fun. God knows we got a deficit on that with Lomarse ruining half the season.

        LIONSCLAW IS OUT TO SAY, NO HARD FEELINGS NORM, CHEER UP AND SAVE THE PASSION FOR THE DEN.

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        • February 18, 2014 at 01:49
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          @Lions_claw: caps lock is annoying but don't be 'iggnorant' to spelling. Only one g mate 😉

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  • February 17, 2014 at 12:23
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    I'm still not sure who's telling the truth in all of this. Property development can a murky business at the best of times.

    Lewisham are the same as any council - they'll do the bare minimum to protect us, but maximise a profit opportunity if they see one, especially in these tough times. Meanwhile I'm sure our chairman didn't make his millions by being an ethical operator, but it looks like he's just been a bit sloppy by being out-maneuvered on this one.

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    • February 17, 2014 at 13:05
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      @Micky Lions:

      If I had to guess, I'd say that someone was getting their palms mighty greasy in all of this and I doubt it's anyone to do with Millwall.

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      • February 17, 2014 at 18:29
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        @Bayern_Lion: There are things going on under the table here and it smells of Harry Monk.

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  • February 17, 2014 at 13:20
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    The whole thing stinks, if it is the case, why else would Renewal have ex councillors on their board. Why were Renewal the only bidders? I have signed the petition like many others but I will also be writing to David Cameron and Boris Johnson requesting that a public enquiry takes place to determine that the sale of this land has been conducted in the correct manner.

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  • February 17, 2014 at 13:38
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    One bidder in a project of this size in this current climate, the world must have got fat overnight or is there a cartel carving it up to maximise the trough profit so the pigs can eat to their hearts content.
    The rate payers will surely not be getting maximum return that's for sure.

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  • February 17, 2014 at 14:04
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    I have had dealings with southwark council over a land developer , very murky and fishy. They are cut throats of the worst order. Vile in the extreme. There is something that stinks about this Lewisham deal.

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  • February 17, 2014 at 14:18
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    Renewal Group on a quick check through companies house and others to seems to be a buy today sell tomorrow at a profit outfit started in 2005 I believe and has about ten other sub companies it its holdings
    IMO all dont bode go well with the appeal as nearly all their freeholds are in and around the Surrey Canal area, their offices are at the far end of Rollins Road in what seems to be a ramshackled old building
    I hope JB has his lawyers on the go as they have got to be GOOD

    I hope I'm wrong on this but it don't read well

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  • February 17, 2014 at 14:48
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    Either we have a legal case or we don't - if we don't we have to embarrass the council into admitting that their process excluded us because they wanted it to

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    • February 17, 2014 at 15:01
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      @timchimes: I agree we need to find out and soon!! Could be the best plan of attack.

      I'm one who thinks this was Millwall's fault but in any case I wouldn't want a property developer taking a grip of our club when JB could have that land and make sure Millwall have another revenue stream outside Tuesday and Saturdays when there are games to be played!

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      • February 17, 2014 at 15:39
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        @Bradders: well i for one dont give a rats about deals between lcc .renewal & millwall or should i say bervlson...end of the day the're sort something out they can all profit from...millwall fc wont see a penny..been tucked up so many times down the years ...

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        • February 17, 2014 at 15:45
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          @Jim28: That's where you are wrong Jim, Berylson is pumping £5mill into Millwall every season to keep us going.... if we keep the area around the Den we won't have to rely on either Berylson or a future Chairman coming in and having to pump that sort of money in!!

          We will be making more money from the community scheme if we owned the land and in turn make Millwall more stable and less reliant on Berylson or any other chairman!

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          • February 17, 2014 at 18:35
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            @Bradders: first of you have missed the point all i said was that they will sort it out between the 3 of em..i'am not degrudging JB from making money...the centre will be gone its the car park which seems to be the main issue

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  • February 17, 2014 at 15:44
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    Keep at it John Boy!

    Is Lewisham as you say it a wide open town?

    Judicial review?

    Mayor of London to call it in?

    Any statement from Steve Bullock or Heidi Alexander?

    Any noise from Simon 'I will turn up to the opening of an envelope' Hughes?y

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  • February 17, 2014 at 19:05
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    Listened to what AA had to say on the matter the other night on Lions live and it does seem we have some grounds to get our hand back on the table. I thought that the ship had already sailed and the best we could hope for, was that we could try and invest in the businesses that will be created by renewal (hopefully will still be an option if the appeal has no effect). But AA, along with our fan on the board and our local MP (whose name escapes me) still believe we can put a stop to the deal and find some sort of middle ground. Does anyone know the name of the local MP on lions live????? It's bugging me, as I thought he talked a the best game (knows the law inside out) - and having someone like that in our corner is a real plus and can tell us where we really stand in all this....

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  • February 17, 2014 at 20:39
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    Piece from the plans : ' Urban regeneration group Renewal is working up detailed plans for the first two phases of its giant Surrey Canal regeneration scheme around Millwall FC’s New Den ground – a pioneering multi-faith centre that will house Muslim and Christian worship space under one roof, and a digital and film hub aimed at stemming the leakage of the area’s artistic community to east London.'

    Worry to me.......could be big prob over time if you see what i mean.

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    • February 18, 2014 at 02:43
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      @shoot ffs: it's the Christians you're worried about isn't it? And don't get me started on artistic types!

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      • February 18, 2014 at 08:16
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        @MFC Lion: Spot on MFC...............

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  • February 18, 2014 at 01:07
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    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/millwall/5363618/John-G-Berylson-proud-to-lead-the-revival-of-Millwall.html - An article from 2009. Berylson says he was enticed in to coming to Millwall, by De Savary, by the prospect of developing the land and making money from real estate. Now that chance appears to have gone, maybe Berylson won't be around for much longer... Would be a massive shame

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  • February 18, 2014 at 13:28
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    JB is a business man so wants to make a couple of quid, nothing wrong in that I say. However it is clear to me that he has the Clubs' interest at heart first and foremost. He's done £20M of his own dough since joining us and any future plans he had would benefit Millwall financially. He has been ignored by Lewisham Council because his ideas don't fit into their plans (Even though CHV have the cash for regen) So what happens now? Relegation don't worry me but JB leaving does. Without his financial clout we are in deep doo doo. Please stay and fight this JB and do what is right for Millwall Football Club.

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