After five years in planning, the redevelopment of Wimbledon dog track has at last begun.
Having secured planning permission at the end of last year, London developer and site owner Galliard Homes has entered into a joint venture with housing association Catalyst to deliver 600 homes and commercial space on the 500,000 sq ft site.
Shortly, demolition of the dog track will get under way, signalling a new beginning for the historic site and a long-awaited return home for AFC Wimbledon. In an interview with Property Week, Galliard and Catalyst reveal how they overcome the obstacles and what their hopes are for the JV.
Wimbledon Stadium has been home to greyhound racing since 1928. When Galliard proposed to demolish the stadium and replace it with a £350m GDV housing, shopping and leisure scheme, it came up against tough opposition.
“The planning history of the scheme has been challenging,” concedes Jonathan Morgan, investment and development director of Galliard Homes. “It’s taken five years to get consent. Some local parties didn’t agree with the demolition of the stadium – they wanted it to be retained, but it was underused and not a viable business.
“The opportunity we see here is to provide much-needed housing and a home for the football club. Everyone is desperate to see the club back in the local area.”
To win over the planning committee, Galliard agreed to give away half the land to AFC Wimbledon so it can leave its current home at Kingsmeadow and return to its spiritual home where the original club played from 1912-1991, and to make a significant contribution towards the build costs.
“We’ve paid a very high price for planning consent. We have given away a lot of very valuable London land to the football club and made a £14m contribution to their construction costs to allow us to build 600 new homes.”
Of the 600 homes to be delivered, 30% will be affordable, three times the amount required by Merton Council. “Every site we buy, we aim to maximise the amount of affordable housing,” says Tom Titherington, Catalyst’s executive director of property and growth.
He is confident one type of housing in particular will prove popular. “We think there will be a lot of demand for the shared ownership homes,” he says. “When finished, the scheme will have a lively atmosphere and we think shared ownership homes will be a big attraction.”
Once completed, Catalyst will purchase all the affordable homes and 117 of the private sale units from the JV. It plans to put the proceeds from the shared ownership sales back into its affordable housing programme.
The JV marks the first time Catalyst has built south of the river. Historically, it has focused on areas from Milton Keynes to north-west London. It says it has been waiting for the right partner to help it expand into south London.
The hope is that the JV signals the start of a long-term relationship and Morgan says the developer is keen to strike up further partnerships with housing associations. “We have identified that housing associations are a key strategic partner and we are keen to explore more opportunities,” he says.
Perhaps not ones that take five years to come to fruition, though.