With the new year underway, it is worth considering where things stand on stadium issues. Little has been heard from the club (we always think this a positive thing at the moment, no matter how frustrating) but things are certainly happening with the Earl's Court development.
CFCTruth have been looking into the residents at West Ken and Gibbs Green and their fight to have the land sale agreement between Hammersmith and Fulham and CapCo declared unlawful. Among three court challenges, they have issued proceedings for urgent consideration to be given by the court to the signing of the conditional land sale agreement that covers the two estates. They argue that the council were trying to hide the contents of the document and when they would sign it. Despite the claimant, who is a a resident of the estates, having lost his legal aid (a real David and Goliath battle, this one) they appear to have thwarted the signing of the deal until the court sits. Their challenge to the land sale is based on four grounds; unlawful consultation procedures, an unclear re-housing plan, breaches of human rights legislation and the most serious, that the demolition of the estates is a case of gerrymandering and bias.
If the residents are successful in having the land sale declared unlawful, there is no doubt that the whole Earl's Court plan will be thrown into some turmoil. The council won't be happy either because according to them, the deal is worth £225 million in cash and other housing provision. There are also investigations by both the police and Deloitte's into the conduct of officers during the case. It isn't pretty.
However, none of this guarantees a positive outcome for CFC. CapCo will be free, under the terms of the pre-agreement, to redraw the masterplan (a plan that is universally doubted for quality and achievability) and that may mean them coming back to Chelsea, who as we know have made several submissions during the planning process and clearly have designs and ideas for the site that also provide the possibility of Earl's Court remaining a major exhibition location. This last is something the exhibition industry is very keen to see. And of course, the club bring ready cash. This also runs alongside the story that Roman has been discussing the purchase of CapCo outright...more of which, we hope, anon.
Despite this emerging situation, we do still see people continuing to think that it is better to believe the council rather than the club over the expansion of Stamford Bridge. The wealth of data and information, including the very revealing minutes of the CPO board's meeting with the council seem not to change this attitude. One particularly ill-informed correspondent to a thread on Vital Football was even peddling the idea that LBHF had nothing to do with the CapCo EC development, rather that it is Kensington & Chelsea's deal. Another said that Abramovich was determined to find a site as far from Stamford Bridge as possible. Such ignorance and misinformation respectively is unhelpful and gets us nowhere.
There are critical issues to consider; that Chelsea moving to another site, be it EC or BPS will involve a land swap with Stamford Bridge. This sweetens the deal in both cases and enables the club to offer the sort of assurances that planning authorities will need as well as providing compensation to the owners of either site for the club occupying a huge lump of their valuable real estate. There is no scenario that will produce great profits for CFC or Abramovich. If the club had been successful in acquiring the entire Battersea development then perhaps that would be the case over a number of years. But CFC are not in that position at present so are trying to elbow their way in.
As we have said in the past, all of us would prefer a dream stadium that does what the club requires at Stamford Bridge. But it is clear now that even if the egress issues could be resolved, to expand adequately would require the acquisition of Oswald Stoll buildings. Consider that for a moment; if the charity were to acquiesce to such a sale (which we doubt; their response to our questions on the matter were extremely frosty) the club would have to buy the building and the land, demolish it and then provide over 150 homes for disabled servicemen somewhere in the area. It is hard to imagine that the residents would want to move far from where they are now and indeed, why should they? However, assume there is a piece of land nearby that can house them, there would then be the acquisition costs, the build costs, the planning and legal costs etc. and then the compensation for the residents etc. Acquiring Oswald Stoll would likely add £300 million to the bill. Then the club would need to demolish the Bridge, rebuild etc. and so we doubt there would be little change from a billion pounds with nothing coming back in return except over an extremely long period of time. People may believe Abramovich can afford this but equally, we do not think it reasonable to expect such a proposition to be engaged with considering the attendant risks and costs. We find it remarkable that fans should consider Abramovich's unwillingness to spend an unrewarded billion pounds on a project fraught with huge obstacles as evidence of his rapacious profiteering.
We will say again that fans and shareholders in CPO would do well to apply pressure in the right places rather than indulge in paranoid accusations against the club. An encouraging number of fans have made it clear that they understand the situation more since we began presenting the facts but too many still indulge in misinformation and conspiracy theories. It is time for fans to turn their energies to forcing the issue in favour of the club, rather than against it. The iron is getting warmer, and should it become hot in the High Court, Chelsea have to be in a position to strike....