Lewisham Borough Council has now abandoned the controversial Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for land around Millwall FC’s football stadium, The Den. The Council had intended to acquire and sell the land currently used for The Den’s car park and the Millwall Community Trust, to property developer Renewal.
The meeting to approve the CPO had been rescheduled for early February 2017, following previous adjournments in both December 2016 and January 2017.
Instead, amid allegations that false claims had been made regarding Sports England funding for the scheme, on 24 January the Council ordered an independent inquiry into the CPO and into the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation (SCSF), a charity set up by Renewal.
The Guardian recently reported that SCSF had declared itself the beneficiary of a grant of £2m from Sport England, which SCSF intended to put towards the development. It was also reported that the Council had agreed to give SCSF a further £500,000 on the basis of the Sport England grant. Sport England later announced that it had received an application from SCSF in 2010, but that this was later withdrawn in 2013. The Charities Commission has recently confirmed that it is investigating.
Sir Steve Bullock, Lewisham’s Mayor and a trustee of the SCSF stated that the CPO “should not proceed” and highlighted concerns regarding Millwall’s Category Two football academy and the Millwall Community Trust, recommending that the parties enter into discussions to agree a way forward to achieve regeneration in the area.
Millwall FC has welcomed the independent inquiry.
The Council clearly intends to improve and regenerate the area, but further consideration by the Council, of the impact on Millwall FC’s academy and the Millwall Community Trust, highlights the complexities posed for local authorities by CPOs and the importance of carrying out comprehensive due diligence at an early stage. This should include undertaking active community engagement with interested parties in order to take on board concerns and see if it is possible to agree a way forward without the need to resort to a CPO.