Lewisham mayor quits charity at centre of Millwall FC land case

Sir Steve Bullock says media attention and 'inaccurate comments' on social media have contributed to the decision

Sir Steve Bullock
Sir Steve Bullock

The mayor of the London borough of Lewisham has resigned as a trustee of a sports charity at the heart of a controversial £1bn regeneration scheme in south-east London, which had threatened the home of Millwall Football Club.

Sir Steve Bullock quit the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation yesterday weeks after Lewisham Council dropped a compulsory purchase order to buy land near Millwall FC’s stadium following weeks of opposition.

According to Lewisham Council’s website, planning permission was granted in 2012 for the New Bermondsey regeneration scheme.

The developer Renewal, which set up the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation in 2011, said this would provide 2,400 homes and an improved setting for Millwall FC’s stadium.

Surrey Canal Sports Foundation was planning to build a £40m sports facility called Energize as part of the New Bermondsey regeneration scheme.

Lewisham Council has faced criticism about the development from local residents and politicians, including the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, and was warned that the proposals could force Millwall FC to leave the area.

The council had said in September 2016 that a compulsory purchase order should be made to secure land around Millwall’s stadium for the development, but the CPO was suspended last month.

Surrey Canal Sports Foundation is being investigated as part of an independent inquiry instigated by Lewisham Council. The Charity Commission has also opened a case into the charity.

In a statement, Bullock said: "I have always sought to make a clear distinction between my trusteeship of SCSF and my role as elected mayor of Lewisham. I was happy to take on my trusteeship because I believed and still continue to believe the Energize project can deliver enormous benefits to the people of the borough. But given the amount of recent media reporting and inaccurate comments I understand to be circulating on social media it has become clear to me that my continued involvement with SCSF is not helping either the borough or the foundation.

"It is also creating unnecessary confusion at a time when I need to concentrate my efforts on the many challenges facing the borough today, not least the continuing impact of government austerity programmes. I have therefore decided that I should tender my resignation as a trustee with immediate effect."

Bullock’s decision to leave the charity comes after Peter John, leader of nearby Southwark Council, quit the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation’s board earlier this month.

A change.org petition calling for Bullock’s resignation as mayor of Lewisham has been set up and has received 1,600 signatures

Surrey Canal Sports Foundation did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday morning. 

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