Wandsworth residents outraged after scout hut site sold to developer without consultation

By Naomi Agius

Wandsworth residents will ‘fight tooth and nail’ to save a beloved scout hut, after the land it was built on was sold to a developer despite owners vowing they would not sell it.

Parents, Scouts, toddlers and neighbours all gathered at the Romany Scout Hut, in Lyford Road on Sunday July 6, to protest against the decision of owners, Magdalen Park Lawn Tennis Club (MPLTC), to sell the site to a developer for £300,000.

The protest was organised to coincide with a members’ consultation that the MPLTC had organised on the sale of the scout hut, though it was cancelled due to fear that there may tension between members and the protestors.

Residents were left furious when it was revealed at a public meeting on Thursday July 3, that a sale had taken place just hours before – despite plans to discuss the site’s future at the meeting itself.

The Save the Romany campaign was then launched to protect the site after the MPLTC refused to renew the lease of the 1st Wandsworth Scout Group – who say they will match the developer’s offer  if they can raise the funds.

Tooting MP Sadiq Khan, who spoke on the panel at the public meeting last week and attended the lobby of the MPLTC, said: “The Romany really is an oasis in the heart of Wandsworth and the campaign to save it continues to be a great example of the fantastic community spirit here in Wandsworth.

“Once it is gone, it is gone, and that is why the local community have come together to protect such a well-loved local treasure. Just like young people of today and yesteryear have benefitted from this safe open space, we want future generations to benefit too.”

The MPTLC has been criticised for not consulting local residents before the sale was made, many of whom think the process was underhand.

“It is really sad to see that the tennis club’s priority seems to be working with developers, rather than local residents. It is beyond comprehension why they won’t work with the local community, who are willing to pay the asking price, but would rather let this land be lost to development,” said Mr Khan.

However, a covenant on the land, that dates back to 1941, protects the land from being developed until 2100. It is also deemed an ‘asset of community value’ by local planning legislation.

Though both laws would prohibit development, many residents are still questioning the hut’s security.

Lisa Gomer, leader of the Play House Playgroup who meet at the Romany Scout Hut daily, said:“Though there are many hurdles standing in the way of the new developer, for example the very strict covenant, which the council would have to amend or overturn, 2100 is a long way off and the law can change.

“We want to protect this community space for future generations who we hope can enjoy it forever.”

She also expressed her disappointment that the tennis club did not consult with residents before agreeing to a sale.

Earlsfield Councillor Rachael Stokes, who attended last Sunday’s protest, said that because of planning laws, the committee should also have formally notified the council of their intention to sell the land and then given the community the first opportunity to purchase it before anyone else.

“The Romany site is a vital resource to the community and needs to stay that way. The site currently hosts numerous youth and community groups, from the Scouts to playgroups to parent support networks.

“I have spoken to many Earlsfield residents who currently use these services and would be at a loss if they were taken away.”

Campaigners have said that they will now focus on raising funds to rival the developer’s bid in a final push to protect the site. 

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