Inquiry finds 'no impropriety' over Millwall stadium redevelopment

An inquiry led by former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson has found 'no impropriety' in a London council's handling of a planning application and a proposed compulsory purchase order (CPO) to enable the redevelopment of land around Millwall Football Club's Bermondsey stadium.

Millwall's 'The Den' stadium at South Bermondsey (pic: diamond geezer via Flickr)
Millwall's 'The Den' stadium at South Bermondsey (pic: diamond geezer via Flickr)

According to the the London Borough of Lewisham, developer Renewal has been purchasing land around the stadium since 2004 and now owns most of the property required to undertake the redevelopment of the 10.74 hectare site.

Planning permissions already granted include 2,400 new homes, community sports facilities, a health centre, new premises for a church, business space and studios and enhanced public realm. The site was designated as a Housing Zone in February 2015.

Millwall leases several parcels of land from the council which the local authority intends to sell to the developer. According to Lord Dyson’s report, the club had been in talks with the developer over forming "some form of joint venture", but these "eventually foundered".

The council website says that in September 2016 the council’s mayor and cabinet decided that a CPO should be made to complete the necessary land assembly.

Millwall Football Club then claimed that the proposals could force it to move from the site and allegations emerged in the press of impropriety around the development plans.

The council abandoned its CPO plans in January and commissioned an independent inquiry to examine the various allegations that had been made regarding the council’s handling of the development plans.

Lord Dyson has now issued his final report.

The document says that the main issues to be examined by the inquiry included "whether the officers and/or members of the council acted with propriety, due diligence and in compliance with applicable codes of practice" in relation to the decision by the council to use its compulsory purchase powers and the grant of outline planning permission for the scheme.

The report finds that there was "no impropriety on the part of the officers or the members either in relation to the process that they followed" in reaching the decision to use the council’s CPO powers, and found no evidence of any mishandling of the planning application.

"I am satisfied that the [council’s mayor and cabinet] and the officers acted with integrity and honesty and in what they genuinely considered to be the public interest", the report says.

The report dismisses all further allegations of impropriety and says that claims that the scheme could threaten the future of the stadium are misplaced. The judge said that it was "unfortunate" the the council's "clear publicly stated position" that the stadium would be a key part of any regeneration plans had "been ignored in some quarters". 

Councillor Chris Best, senior Lewisham Council cabinet spokesperson and cabinet member for health, wellbeing and older people said: "Now Lord Dyson’s independent inquiry report has been published, we urge all parties involved in the New Bermondsey development to work together to agree a way forward to bring much-needed new jobs and homes to the area and ensure Millwall FC is based in Lewisham for generations to come".

A tweet sent by the Association of Millwall Supporters, which opposes the CPO, said: "Let’s put this straight about the inquiry. Lewisham paid for it. Lewisham set terms of reference. Both Lewisham and Renewal gave private evidence. The inquiry never had power to really investigate anything."

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