This week could be a pivotal for the long term future of Millwall Football Club . Lewisham Council’s efforts to obtain Compulsory Purchase Orders on the land around our ground was due to be decided on Wednesday (February 17).
This meeting only emerged last week along with the plans for the CPOs. Councillors want to get land that is currently being used for our Community Centre, for the car parks at the ground and land that is used as our memorial garden.
The council wants the land so they can sell it on the cheap to developers Renewal. The reason it will be on the cheap is because they have valued the land under its existing use as a car park. Renewal could well then sell it on at an inflated price to other developers.
Back in 2014 this wish to CPO the land was fought by the supporters with a petition launched under the banner Defend Our Den. That battle was seemingly won but only last month the club heard that Lewisham Council was going to consider the CPOs at a meeting with the Lewisham mayor and cabinet on February 17.
Our club has its own plans to pay a fair price for the land so we can develop housing and protect the future of our club. Outside the top division financial survival is precarious and we need to be allowed to participate in the redevelopment.
Now I am pretty sure the club are not blameless as I understand it missed the initial deadline for submitting plans and their plans were not complete at that time. But from that point the council has seemingly refused to deal with the club at all.
The council should as a minimum sit down with the club and review its plans rather than chase a short term financial gain from an organisation with no links to the area and no reason to ensure a long lasting legacy.
Our award-winning Community Scheme which has been recognised as a pioneer in this realm for several decades will have a huge question mark over its future if the CPOs go through. There is a chance that the community will be left without our scheme supporting them all if the council puts corporations ahead of communities.
That said, following yet another home defeat on Tuesday night, 2-0 against Scunthorpe , maybe we should stop defending our Den and put a request in to play all our matches away from home. That disappointing home defeat followed yet another away win against Rochdale last Saturday in our first visit to Spotland in 51 years. We need to improve our home form quickly.
Ian Toal is a committee member at Millwall Supporters Club