A decision is still yet to be made over the controversial Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for Millwall FC’s land around its football stadium, The Den, by Lewisham Borough Council.
The Council’s meeting to approve the CPO was due to take place on 11 January 2017 following an adjournment in December 2016. This meeting is rescheduled for early February 2017 to allow time for discussions over the future of Millwall’s youth academy and the Millwall Community Trust.
The potential CPO land is currently used for The Den’s car park and the Millwall Community Trust. The Council intends to acquire and sell this land to property developer Renewal, an offshore registered company, for a proposed 2,400 housing development in the area. The Council say that this redevelopment will not only lead to the creation of around 1,500 permanent jobs, but will also offer benefits for the club valued at around £7 million. Millwall FC had previously drawn up plans for a redevelopment of their own costing £140 million, which were not approved by the Council.
If the CPO is approved, Millwall’s Chief Executive, Steve Kavanagh , has confirmed Millwall FC will contest the decision. This would probably result in a public inquiry, at which a decision would be made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to confirm, modify or reject the CPO.
The Council’s decision to proceed with a CPO meeting has been met with fierce criticism, not only from Millwall FC, but also local businesses and residents. Senior figures such as Tim Farron and Greg Dyke have also voiced their concerns. Furthermore, most recently, London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave his support to Millwall staying in Lewisham. Millwall have also refused to rule out relocating the club, possibly out of the borough of Lewisham, Millwall’s home since 1910. This could remove the beneficial work of the Millwall Community Trust and Millwall’s Category Two football academy from the area, and local businesses, residents and fans of the club have said they would be severely impacted.
Clearly, the Council’s second adjournment in less than a month indicates further consideration of the CPO is required. Whilst difficult to assess and quantify, the potential negative and long-term impact of a CPO on both the club and the local community needs careful consideration. The use of a CPO should be in the overriding public interest, and viewed as a ‘last resort’, once all other efforts to discuss and negotiate with interested parties have been exhausted.
If the Council does decide to approve the CPO next month, the expected public inquiry and decision of the Secretary of State could take between 12 to 18 months. If the Secretary of State approves the CPO, the interested parties have the right to appeal to the High Court and otherwise there are several routes to taking physical possession and paying compensation. It remains to be seen whether the Council will proceed with the CPO. However, it seems that Millwall FC remain determined to fight against any CPO decision.