RIDGWAY Stables in Wimbledon closed yesterday after operating as a riding school for nearly eight decades.
But the horseriding community have vowed the fight to save it ‘is only just beginning’ – and they may win the chance to take ownership if the stables is awarded Asset of Community Value status, applied for by a Wimbledon resident a fortnight ago and supported by Merton Liberal Democrats.
Winning this bid would protect the site from redevelopment and please the more than 8,200 people who have signed an independent petition aiming to save the stables, devised by rider Dee Jacklyn-Meyer.
Ridgway Stables manager Julia Hardy, 67, said: “It would be wonderful if the stables could reopen in the future as a riding school, serving the community as it has done for more than 70 years.”
She has run the business for 37 years but said it had to close following a decision by the landlords to not renew their lease.
Two of their horses are looking for homes, while three have gone to Hillside retirement home, four to fields, two to staff and two to semi-retirement in West Sussex, where they will still be used for occasional riding lessons with children.
Sarah Dawson championed Ms Hardy’s management of the site on her Facebook page, crediting her with running the site with “kindness, care, commitment and tenacity – keeping it exactly as it was 40 years ago – and it exists almost like a time capsule.”
Hugo Forshaw, 22, of Merton Liberal Democrats, said: “Ridgway Stables are a vital part of the village character.
“Merton Council possesses numerous powers that they could use to preserve the stables, and prevent it from being replaced with yet another anonymous commercial development.”
The application for Asset of Community value status usually takes eight weeks for a response, with those involved with Ridgway expecting to hear a judgement by mid-November.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council, was contacted for comment.
The online petition can be accessed here.