Flats Being Built Close to Wandsworth Prison Described as 'Very Dodgy Business'

Former site of Phoenix Club to be turned into seven apartments

The former Phoenix Members Bar Club

February 24, 2020

A former clubhouse near Wandsworth prison has been demolished and will be turned into seven new apartments, in what one Labour councillor described as “very dodgy business”.

The former Phoenix Members Bar Club on Groom Crescent was once owned by the Ministry of Justice, who gifted the club to be used for community purposes, but it was demolished after falling out of use several years ago.

It is now believed to be owned by Mercatura Developments Ltd, which is the listed applicant on the planning application.

At last week’s planning committee at Wandsworth Council [February 20] councillors approved an application to build a new residential block containing seven apartments, including four two-bedroom apartments, one three-bedroom, one studio and one one-bedroom flat.

None of the apartments will be at social or affordable rent and there will be no replacement community facilities. The surrounding properties were originally built for Wandsworth Prison staff.

Labour councillors questioned if the use of former public land should require affordable housing or a replacement community space.

Councillor Tony Belton said he felt uncomfortable with the application.

“I’m just not overly fond of what sounds like a very very dodgy business to me – how Ministry of Justice land becomes someone else’s like this without any questions asked. You can see it being a scandal in Private Eye one day, I don’t particularly want this committee voting for it,” he said.

Cllr Claire Gilbert also shared her “discomfort”.

While officers said they shared these concerns, they explained that planning policy did not require a replacement facility after the demolition some time ago, and that land ownership is not a relevant planning consideration.

A report into the building said it had low membership numbers and fell into disrepair before it was demolished several years ago.

It was legally defined as a private members’ club, with annual membership fees, rather than being open to any member of the public or community.

The application received 18 objections from nearby residents who were concerned about the height of the building, and that it would attract “short term renters” who “will have no inclination to support the long term needs of our community”.

They also complained about the lack of community space in the area, and their hope that a replacement facility would be provided after the Phoenix Club House had been demolished.

Sian Bayley, Local Democracy reporter