MILLWALL say they are "appalled and bewildered" at Lewisham Council’s plans to hand over three pieces of land to a property developer, warning the club’s long term future is at risk.
The Lions have hit out at plans to sell land they currently lease - the car park, a space behind the stadium and the Millwall Community freeholds for Scheme Trust’s Lions Centre site - to developer Renewal.
Renewal is the company behind the mammoth Surrey Canal project - a 2,500-home scheme with a new station, shops, cafes, business and leisure facilities being created around The Den.
But Millwall claim their own plans for the land have been ignored and they have been blocked from seeing vital commercial information which would have allowed them to buy the freeholds.
Lewisham’s move may raise concerns the council feels pressured to cave in developers’ demands, having seen the similarly ambitious Lewisham Gateway scheme stall repeatedly since it was approved in 2009.
Club chairman John Berylson said: "I am appalled and bewildered by the behaviour of the council towards Millwall Football Club, our fans and our community scheme."
The chairman said the club was "rooted in its community", its award-winning community scheme has helped thousands of young people and pointed out Millwall's well-publicised support for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign.
He said: "Lewisham Council’s decision to sell the freehold of these three areas of land adjoining our stadium to property developers without considering our own plans makes us feel isolated, unsupported by our local authority and angry."
Mr Berylson is now urging Lewisham Council to come back to the negotiating table to consider Millwall’s plans for all three areas.
He said: "If these land sales go through, they will put the long-term future of the club at risk because it will mean non-football assets that we hold in our leases will be surrendered to a property developer.
"We have the long-term interests of the club and the community in mind. Renewal does not. Lewisham council must be urged to think again."
The club has written to politicians and community leaders and has produced its own leaflet explaining its plans and asking for the community’s support.
"Been in discussion for many years"
A spokesman for Lewisham Council said: “The land leased to Millwall FC and the Millwall Community Scheme is owned by Lewisham Council and we have been in discussion with them for many years.
“We have undertaken to safeguard their futures on many occasions and we continue to meet and discuss issues of concern with them.
“We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the comprehensive regeneration of the Surrey Canal site takes into account the long-term future of the football club including any future requirement for stadium improvement and expansion as well as transport infrastructure.
“We have also undertaken to ensure that the Millwall Community Scheme will remain close to the club and continue to be able to serve the communities of Lewisham as well as Southwark.”
“The scheme will mean a greatly improved setting for the club and will breathe new life and vitality into this part of central London.”
"The freehold sale safeguards the future of the club"
A spokesman for Renewal said: “The freehold sale will enable Renewal to bring forward the wider regeneration including the new station, 2,000 new jobs, much-needed new homes and a regional sports centre for community use, which will provide the Millwall Community Scheme Trust with a new home.
“The freehold sale safeguards the future of the club as a new lease will be granted for the club at the New Den protecting all rights of access and operation.
“It is in Renewal’s interest that Millwall flourish in a regenerated area, as demonstrated by the significant benefits for the club within the outline planning consent including recladding the stadium, increasing the capacity and providing new bars and restaurants for fans.
“As the loss-making club cannot credibly deliver any re-development Renewal will deliver the full scheme, with commencement on phase one at the end of 2014.”