At Wednesday's meeting of Merton Council, Conservative Councillors presented a petition signed by over a thousand residents which called on the Council to enforce the covenant which protects parkland from development by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC). Cllr Thomas Barlow also spoke in the debate on this. His remarks focused on the lack of trust residents have in the Council to act in their interests on this issue.
With some naivety, the Liberal Democrats put forward a motion, amended by Labour, which allowed the Council to downgrade from "enforcing" the covenant to merely "respecting" it. In the debate, Labour Councillors made clear that they are very supportive of the development and are keen to see it progress.
This was not a position we would support. Nor do we expect residents would want us to, given their lack of trust in the Council and strong support for the covenant's enforcement.
We were surprised the Liberal Democrats would back this position. At the meeting, we also questioned their own support for new temporary courts, built each year for the Wimbledon Qualifiers. This does not seem like a workable solution and it is hard to see how these courts would not negatively impact the very parkland we are trying to protect. Unfortunately, it is now on the record that the Council has judged that it need only "respect" the covenant, as supported by the Liberal Democrats.
Conservative Councillors and Stephen Hammond MP have been working with residents to ensure the Council and the All England keep their commitment not to develop on the parkland. Councillors have met the All England and Council representatives a number of times, including organising a public meeting for more than 100 residents attended by the Chief Executive and Chairman of the AELTC. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that the covenant is enforced, not just respected. We will work with our Member of Parliament, local residents and anyone else with an interest in making sure the promises made to our community are not broken.