Local councillors in South Bermondsey have said proposed development around Millwall FC’s ground could threaten the future of a community centre supporting young people in Southwark.
The three Liberal Democrat councillors for the area say plans to sell land around the stadium to a property developer could spell the end for the Lions Centre, which offers sports coaching and educational programmes for local children through the Millwall Community Scheme.
Cllr Michael Bukola, who is a member of the Millwall Community Scheme Trust, has now demanded that Lewisham Council enters negotiations with Millwall about the future of the land, taking into consideration the knock-on effect on the club’s community work.
Millwall was recently notified by the Council that the freehold of three areas of land surrounding the stadium – including the car park, a space behind the stadium and the site of the Millwall Community Scheme’s Lions Centre – are being sold by the Council to developers Renewal Ltd.
News about the deal has caused alarm amongst Millwall fans and led to fears the club will be forced to stop community projects on the land. Millwall has a long lease on some of the area affected, but a shorter lease on the Lions Centre.
Lions chairman John Berylson has argued the move could also put the long-term future of Millwall FC at risk as it would deny the club the opportunity to generate non-football revenues which are vital to keeping it in business.
The New Den ground is located in Lewisham, just a stone’s throw from the Southwark ward of South Bermondsey. As well as having an economic and social impact on South Bermondsey residents, many of the club’s supporters are drawn from across the border in Southwark.
Commenting, South Bermondsey Liberal Democrat councillor Michael Bukola said:
"The Millwall Community Scheme Trust has helped thousands of local people from what is one of the most diverse and deprived boroughs in London. The Lions Centre is not only home to several sports groups but also houses vital programmes helping social inclusion".
"There are serious questions over how the Council have dealt with this. They seem to have refused to consider Millwall’s plans to develop the land for the benefit of the community, but instead are conducting secret deals behind closed doors."
"It is time they were honest and open with fans about what is going on."