#DefendOurDen – Lions in fight for their land

By John Lyons

MILLWALL chairman John Berylson has vowed to ‘fight all the way’ to safeguard the club’s future as the spectre of compulsory purchase orders hangs over them.

The Lions fear Lewisham Council will decide at a meeting on Wednesday to grant CPOs to seize land currently leased to the club around The Den – and then sell the freehold of this land to property developer Renewal.

Renewal have planning permission for a wider New Bermondsey development to build 2,400 homes, a £40m sports complex, a multi-faith centre, a hotel, medical facilities, a conference centre and a new overground train station.

But Millwall want to develop their land themselves and have been unable to come to an agreement with Renewal.

In 2013, the League One club submitted outline £140m plans to build 400 homes, artist workshops, student accommodation and a new home for the Millwall Community Trust on the land around The Den and offered to share the profits with Lewisham Council.

In a letter to fans in yesterday’s matchday programme against Bradford City, Berylson said: “I have now instructed our advisors to draw up plans to seek planning permission so we can develop our land with the council.

“Our rival plan, shown to the council in 2013, will not only future-proof Millwall and offer security to the surrounding businesses threatened by the compulsory purchase orders but also protect the Millwall Community Trust.

“Our scheme guarantees the future of the club at The Den and allows for expansion should we gain promotion.

Opposition: Millwall chairman John Berylson has urged fans of any club to support the #DefendOurDen petition (photo by Action Images)

Opposition: Millwall chairman John Berylson has urged fans of any club to support the #DefendOurDen petition (photo by Action Images)

“We have assembled a world-class team of professionals to help us deliver it and we do not need to go cap in hand to banks as we have no need of external funding. It will not delay the rest of Renewal’s development and we are ready to go.

“What’s more, we have offered to share any profit with the council. Renewal have not. If the council grants use of compulsory purchase powers, I am committed to fighting it all the way. I have to – for the sake of your club and its future at The Den, for our fans, and for our neighbours and friends.

“Doing so will considerably delay the much-needed regeneration and cost the taxpayer money.

“So my message to Lewisham Council is simple. Let’s take this into extra-time, avoid the financial penalties and work together to get a result we can all be happy with.”

While the Lions sweat, fellow London outfit Brentford are much happier after Hounslow Council completed the CPO land acquisition for their proposed Brentford Community Stadium at Lionel Road South.

The Bees said: “This is a significant milestone, and brings to a satisfactory conclusion an 18-month process to assemble the land necessary for the new stadium development.

“Before any work can start on site, there are a number of requirements that have to be fulfilled. We are working hard with our developer, Prime Place, to achieve these as quickly as possible.”

*This article originally featured in the 4 September edition of The FLP.

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