A community is furious after the land on which their beloved scout hut is built was sold to a developer, despite the landowner saying they had no plans to sell it.
In a shock announcement at a public meeting last night it was revealed the Magdalen Park Lawn Tennis Club (MPLTC) had sold the ground on which the Romany Scout Hut, in Lyford Road, Wandsworth, is based for £300,000.
The sale took place just hours before the meeting, held at Beatrix Potter School, which was expected to discuss the site’s future.
The Save the Romany campaign was launched to protect the site after MPLTC refused to renew the lease of the 1st Wandsworth Scout Group – who offered to pay the market rent.
Despite telling the Wandsworth Guardian in May this year they had no plans to sell the site, MPLTC referred us to the new owner Abid David when we approached them for a comment today.
Mr David, who lives near the site, said he wants to keep the scout hut and the playgroup on the Romany site (plot A) but he wants to apply for planning permission for a nursery on the open space (plot B).
The scout hut
He said: "This will be a further asset to the families and children of this community.
"I do not want to see the scouts or the scout hut go - not today, not tomorrow, not in three, 15 or 150 years.
"The only interest I have in plot A is the addition of disabled vehicle access to plot B, the nursery.
"Let me say now that I am not telling mistruths and I will defend myself and my family's reputation against this claim. I want to start work with the scouts as soon as possible in the spirit of friendship and trust to realise the future of The Romany."
However, the scouts, along with other members of the community, fear their little oasis will be engulfed by a car park, destroying its character.
Scout leader, Tom Arms, 65, from Wandsworth, said: "It’s the community not just the scouts. You can tell from the tone of the meeting they felt as if they had been led up the garden path and cheated.
"It is not a done deal. There are a lot more holes that they will have to go through and the community will be doing everything they can to secure the site.
"It is a magical oasis. It is a community asset which the scouts manage."
Dan Watkins, a local Tory campaigner, emphasised Mr David had three major hurdles he would have to get over in order to develop the site including restrictive covenants governing its use, its designation as an asset of community value and planning permission.
He said: "My absolute key message on this is I think the tennis club are far too hasty to do this deal."
He said they were trying to form a Community Interest Company, with the scouts and the playgroup, in order to raise enough money to make a higher offer than Mr David’s but are asking the tennis club for more time.
Councillor Kathy Tracey, who attended the meeting, said: "It was an extraordinary meeting. All I can say is I couldn’t understand the tennis club and why they have decided they will sell the site to a developer when they have had a similar offer from one of the residents who wants to save it for the community."
The council is expected to block development on the site and Mrs Tracey added: "He won’t get planning permission."
MP Sadiq Khan said: "The attitude and behaviour of the tennis club beggars belief. 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."
Alexandra Adam, from MPLTC, said: "The offer from a local resident was most definitely not as good as Abid’s offer. We have a duty to do our best for the tennis club so to suggest that we would accept a lower offer than another on the table is ridiculous."
MPLTC have agreed contractual terms with Mr David, subject to a consultation with its members who are expected to meet on Sunday.
Campaigners are expected to gather outside the tennis club in Magdalen Road, between 10am-12.
MPLTC bought the site in 1978 with a view to move their tennis club there but ended up staying put, and as they now pay market rent to their landlords, they need to release some value from the Romany site.
What do you think about the sale of the site? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org