Millwall say regeneration scheme could force them to leave Lewisham

Millwall have declared that the regeneration plans for the land surrounding their stadium may force them to relocate to a new site in Kent. The Guardian's Barney Ronay reports:

Lewisham council’s plan to compulsorily purchase areas around the Den and sell them on to a mysterious offshore developer with connections to the current Labour administration has already drawn both disbelief and mass protest.

With the CPO likely to be confirmed at a council meeting next Wednesday Millwall have conceded publicly for the first time the club could have to leave the area that has been their home since 1910. In a statement Steve Kavanagh, their chief executive, told the Guardian: 

“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.”

The issue does indeed highlight the problems caused by Labour's utter dominance of the Council. Whatever the merits of the Renewal masterplan and whether or not this is brinkmanship by the club, Millwall's plight ought to be generating huge political debate, but there is simply no opposition. Ronay notes:

The chair of Lewisham’s own overview & scrutiny committee, Alan Hall, has been a lone voice inside the council with the courage to speak out against the CPO process. “Millwall Football Club are part of the cultural history of London and Lewisham with over 100 years in the borough,” Hall said. “Over the past five years Renewal’s original outline planning application has fallen apart in slow motion in front of our very eyes. The ever-shrinking proposed ‘sporting village’ will drive away one of football’s most famous clubs and its highly successful community scheme.”

The AMS Millwall supporters’ organisation has led the fight on behalf of the club’s fans. On Wednesday the AMS published its own open letter to Quirk, who has emerged as the driving force behind the scheme – the mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, having stepped back due the fact he is, astonishingly, director of a Renewal-associated company, the Surrey Canal Sporting Trust.

Ronay argues that Millwall's loss would be a "stunning blow" for the borough, which would be left without a professional sports club. I'm not sure that's the point. The club has an excellent community outreach programme but the Den has not proven itself as an engine of local prosperity. As a cultural asset, it's a mixed blessing too - no one likes them and they don't care.

But the fans - many of them Lewisham residents and voters - deserve better than to lose their home. A way to accommodate the club should be found.

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