Saturday 25 February 2012

Come and get your candy!

In our recent blogs regarding Earl's Court, we have tried to put into context the approach of Hammersmith and Fulham council to the issue of Chelsea staying at Stamford Bridge and why they would insist so vociferously that the club CAN develop the stadium in an appropriate way. Of course, one imagines that were the budget to be of no consequence, almost anything is possible and we await the outcome of Chelsea's discussions with the council in this regard. We hope the club will soon elaborate on the work they have been doing in order to finally nail this suspicion that they are engaged in a "land grab".

But meanwhile, if you needed any convincing that the council is rather keen to get the residents of West Ken and Gibbs Green estates to acquiesce to their demand that they vacate the premises in order that H&F can swell their coffers to the tune of 100 million big ones (and not have to pay back the ten million CapCo have already given them) you need only look at the latest version of the consultation with residents of those two estates. Basically, they have now resorted to good old fashioned bribery!

For council tenants of the estates they are offering a new incentive: that the developer would now have to build the new homes before demolishing the old ones. But it doesn't stop there. In the goody bag being dangled sweetly before the under pressure residents are some of the following delights;
- For residents of over 1 year, a £4,700 home loss payment will be made to compensate them
- They will be offered properties with one more room than is required to meet their needs
- Their new homes will be equipped with all white goods, carpets, curtains
- They would have their moving expenses paid
- There would be a further "disturbance" payment for moving
- Compensation for the loss of garden or parking space

For leasholders and freeholders there is even more
- Market rate for their homes plus 10 percent compensation on top
- Service charges capped for five years
- Legal fees, compensation, removal expenses etc

The list is pretty exhaustive. One wonders what is afoot when a council is trying so hard to get people out of their homes. That is ultimately an issue for them but from the point of view of Chelsea fans, we ought to be fully aware of the background to anything the council say about our stadium.

I suppose we should try to examine what this all means. If the estates dig their heels in and block the sale, then CapCo are likely to redraw the masterplan, Chelsea will make a big play to move in on it and H&F will probably start to barter with the club about social housing at SB. What is at the heart of this of course, is cash. H&F don't have any (whereas their new best friends over at RBKC have about £198 million of reserves). H&F can hardly afford to pay CapCo back, let alone lose out on the hundred million that is tantalisingly out of reach at the minute. They do not need Chelsea peeing on their plans......They need money NOW.
If they get the estates then Chelsea's chances of a stadium at EC will diminish. There is no question that CapCo would welcome the injection of speed and cash that the club would bring but in truth they are quids in whatever happens. It is still possible that the club would stand a chance should the SPD be changed to include a stadium and superficially at least the council have said that this is still possible. The Mayoral elections complicate things here since Boris will be as uncontroversial as possible in the run up. CFC have been trying to get that SPD changed for over a year and the councils have been resisting whilst they have the current EC masterplan on the table. It is a JV with one of them after all. The club are not very trusting of H&F either....

One glimmer is that RBKC, we hear, have adopted a slightly more relaxed attitude to the idea of a stadium at EC but are not sure of its possibilities within a larger development. They have their own bruises from the consultations up there of course but are essentially in the passenger seat on the masterplan. They are also in the first phases of a politically driven experiment of joining the boroughs and so will not, yet at least, get into squabbles with their partner. The combining of services, such as planning, have not gone too well either; they now have a backlog of 5,000 applications. All eyes are on that Pickles-driven project and it is likely to get quite messy if our moles over there are to be believed. Scores of employment tribunals are already underway so the two councils getting into a row over EC is unlikely at present. But we digress. If the ideal scenario of Chelsea proposing a stadium were to materialise, H&F would have their social housing on the SB site and RBKC would get theirs in a revised EC development.

With the seemingly endless offers on the table for the estates' residents, it is possible H&F will get their way. Money always talks and they are chucking quite a lot at the residents now...will they hold out? We shall see.

Monday 20 February 2012

Why Boris v Ken Matters

Now seems as good a time as any to look forward to 4th May 2012, the day after the fourth London Mayoral Election. It's not rocket science to be able to guess that whoever wakes up in power that morning is going to have a critical influence on Chelsea's ongoing efforts to either develop Stamford Bridge or to build a new stadium. But just how supportive of Chelsea FC's ambitions can we expect either Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone to be (you will forgive us if we assume that Brian Paddick is not going to be not be elected this time)?


Of the two, Boris Johnson's thoughts on the potential redevelopment of the two possible sites for a new stadium - Battersea and Earls Court - are probably easier to gauge. For now, it will be 'more of the same'. He will continue to be publicly supportive of the three Conservative-led councils responsible for the sites (Wandsworth for Battersea and Hammersmith & Fulham/Kensington & Chelsea for Earls Court) in their complex and troubled redevelopment efforts. But privately, as we have said before, Boris would be quite content to see Chelsea installed at Earls Court. His position on the club moving to Battersea is not so clear cut but we believe that he would be open to that idea too providing the plans meet his expectations.

But what is Ken Livingstone's position? His views are all the more fascinating because they are anything but 'more of the same' - as we would expect be if Boris gets re-elected. If Ken becomes London Mayor on 3rd May then this would almost certainly be a colossal blow to the current plans for Earls Court and Battersea should they not have already worked their way through the planning process. Suddenly the Conservative-led efforts to redevelop the sites will have to take account of them being located in a city now led by someone with extensive planning powers and opposing political views and priorities.

So what are Ken's views on the sites in question? We found this video of an interview with him from about a year ago in which Ken makes clear that he is very supportive of a tube extension to Battersea/Nine Elms and seems to suggest that he would expect a large contribution from any developer (and from the US Embassy if he has his way) towards supporting the extension. The Northern Line link to the area is the key to the whole development in his eyes (and the lack of one is the major reason for the failure of previous redevelopment schemes). He also mentions that he will reimpose a requirement for 50% affordable housing in any scheme. Would that leave any room for a stadium? It's not clear. And of course, that interview was last year - well before REO collapsed - and there does not seem to be any clear statement from Livingstone on the development since then. For now, Ken's views on a possible move of Chelsea FC to Battersea will have to remain an open question.

His recorded views on the Earls Court scheme are, however, much clearer. Last July, Ken said the following in a statement on CapCo's Earls Court proposals:
"I cannot understand why decent homes where families have lived for years are being proposed for demolition along with successful local shops and businesses by Tory Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea with the backing of Tory Boris Johnson. There is no justification for tearing down the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, the Lillie Road Depot, local shops and businesses or the 750 homes in the area. The plans are being driven by developers who want to make a profit rather than the interests of the local community." 
Well that seems fairly clear doesn't it? Not only does Ken want to protect the Gibbs Green and West Ken estates from the developers (which is perfectly understandable) but he also wants to 'save' the Exhibition Centre and the Lillie Bridge Depot too. Could he be persuaded that some kind of development scheme (presumably excluding the GG and WK estates but incorporating a stadium) could make sense for local people compared with what is there now? Possibly, but Chelsea would have to come up with a compelling plan which delivers both community facilities and affordable housing in Earls Court and would need to couple this with some very effective lobbying of the Livingstone administration. It would probably not hurt Chelsea's case that they have raised the prospect of some social housing on the Stamford Bridge site too (in their submission in response to the Seagrave Road planning proposals). Anyway, in light of Mr Livingstone's statement, it's not hard to understand why the councils are so keen to rush their plans through the planning process as quickly as possible - and their growing desperation to keep Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, regardless of what the business case for that is. As we alluded to in our last blog...the council are extremely keen to spend Chelsea's money for them....


The positive thing to remember is that, despite not being a fan himself, Ken Livingstone has a history of supporting London football clubs in their stadium ambitions. He was closely involved with helping the Emirates through the development process and "negotiated reduced social housing when the cost of the initial scheme became unviable". Equally he has made a number of positive statements about Spurs' stadium scheme including saying that the mayor’s office could 'reduce Section 106 financial contributions made by Tottenham Hotspur as part of the planning process to smooth the path for the club'. “I’m not saying the mayor’s office has got any money to give them,” said Mr Livingstone in June 2011. "but you could vary the terms of the planning permission and perhaps make less on the Section 106 agreement. That’s where the mayor’s got the flexibility.”

And, though it was a while ago, it is worth remembering that Chelsea were clearly trying to cultivate a good working relationship with Livingstone when he was last in office - with Peter Kenyon memorably jetting off to China in 2006 with Ken on an Olympic ambassadorial trip. The attempt to woo Ken was interestingly detailed in the Independent at the time but of course things have now moved on - as has Kenyon himself. We hope that Ron Gourlay and Bruce Buck have already taken the trouble to make discreet contact with Ken Livingstone by now just in case London chooses Red on 3rd May.


So how much would a Livingston victory impact on Chelsea's options? Our view is that impact would be significant but it would not necessarily be negative. For example, it is quite feasible that Ken would immediately refuse permission for the Earls Court development to proceed (assuming the plans have not already been rushed through the system in time) thus giving the club a chance to make its case for a development which incorporated a stadium on the site. Ken is, at heart, a practical politician who we believe could be persuaded of the case if he felt that it genuinely 'meets the needs of Londoners'.  .

So now as the days tick down to election day and the opinion polls seem ever closer, what is CFCTruth's advice to London-based Chelsea fans? We are strictly apolitical and so would not dare suggest who you should vote for on 3rd May. If nothing else, we know that most people have much more important reasons for voting one way or another than a football-related issue. But listen very carefully to any statements from the candidates on these questions in the run up to this election as all the indications we have received recently confirm that - whoever is elected as our new London Mayor - this whole issue is going to heat up significantly over the next few months...

Friday 17 February 2012

Round one

As expected, Hammersmith and Fulham council granted permission for the Seagrave Road housing development last night. This is the first of many phases in the Earl's Court development and has no direct material effect on Chelsea's hopes but it is an important and symbolic moment upon which Chelsea have leapt in order to make their point. The permission now goes to the Mayor for sign off.

In the huge report put to committee, there are hundreds of objections. Even the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea wanted the scheme scrapped. There are concerns, too, about flooding. However, despite these, and of course, Chelsea's own submission relating to the irregularity concerning the draft Statutory Development Plan, the council and its officers forged ahead and ignored all of them. This is hardly surprising because the Seagrave Road development is critical to their hopes of securing the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates as part of the joint CapCo and Council development of Earl's Court. Indeed, in the planning report, the council officers referred to the need for the 200 units within Seagrave Road's plans for relocation of WK and GG residents "should the housing department wish to dispose of the estates". An interesting statement that is rendered even more so by the fact that among the fierce objectors to Seagrave Road were the two residents associations of those estates...the people the council are trying to persuade to move there!

And to add to the doubt that obviously surrounds the outcome of those consultations, in their press release this morning CapCo said;

"The project includes 200 affordable homes that will be made available for the relocation of some residents of the Gibbs Green and West Kensington Estates in the event that regeneration of these estates occurs."

So no counting chickens.

We have also come into possession of some information that suggests there are more positive signals from Hammersmith and Fulham that the draft SPD may be changed to include a possible stadium. This could be H&F seeing the light and realising that they are under pressure from all sides. It would do them no harm to try to keep their options open should WK and GG estates not accede to their plans, necessitating the rethink of the EC master-plan. They may well find themselves in clover should they lose their affordable homes and Chelsea offer something nice for them at SB....

Finally, we hear that the club are still discussing SB with the council. The desperate and somewhat ludicrous statements from H&F about the possibilities at SB (and we hope you have come to realise why they made them) will hopefully be nailed once and for all with a joint statement some time in the not too distant. Our understanding is that the possibilities, such as they are, will be horrendously expensive and simply unworkable. That is a business case and whatever the outcome fans will be able to have a clear picture. As one insider told us, "Chelsea are not enamoured with the council's propensity to spend their money for them!"

What this all means, of course, is that Chelsea seem full steam ahead on EC. You will no doubt wonder why the club haven't made statements about all of this. In fact, they have. A very full one in the planning below. People have questioned why they couldn't say all of this before the EGM? They couldn't because it was an extremely difficult situation with all sides playing their own games. It has now unavoidably, because of the planning process, come to light. You need to take account of one thing, if it helps; Chelsea made representations to H&F and the GLA in April last year, backed by the Mayor, that the draft SPD should include the provision of a stadium....

Now go get em Roman.

Thursday 16 February 2012


So tonight, Hammersmith and Fulham planning committee make a decision on the Seagrave Road element of the EC development. This phase is to build 800 odd homes, 200 of which will be social housing for Hammersmith and Fulham tenants.

We know that Chelsea are attempting to "block" the plans on the grounds that they do not include a cultural or sporting facility (see our previous blog). Blocking Seagrave Road is not a priority...but it is part of the overall plan..this is not about Seagrave Road precisely - the objection is there to make a point about the whole CapCo masterplan for EC. Seagrave Road is necessary for  the council to house residents from West Ken and Gibbs Green which they hope to flog off for a tidy sum so one imagines they will give the development the go ahead. None of this is very honourable, like most planning.  However,  those two estates who the council want to bulldoze out of their homes are still in (extended) consultation and resisting... If the estates do not give the go ahead and the 200 homes are not needed to relocate estate residents Capco will have the flexibility to offer the homes as 'intermediate tenure'. They don't lose on this one.  But the loss of West Ken and GG certainly changes things in relation to the masterplan if it were to occur and that is when Chelsea would have a chance.

We are not entirely sure whether the club will have their advisor CBRE in attendance; clearly the council officers who are recommending the plans will carry influence but much will depend on how strong a case Chelsea have legally (and how many boozy lunches they have had with Boris recently) when it comes to the councillors.

Let us hope that they throw everything they have at the planning committee and hope for some joy. For all the reasons we have spoken about recently, the council will, one might expect, resist.....Seagrave Road being given the go ahead is not the end of the world for CFC - the club favour a site at the North End of the development area - but it would help because the point would have been made about the planing guidelines that the club wish to see adjusted

Friday 10 February 2012


So how many of you have taken the trouble to read all of those documents we linked to yesterday?

How many of you saw this.........?

"3.275 For the purposes of information only, the contributions that form the s.106 package do not include any community infrastructure levy payable to the Mayor of London as this only becomes payable in respect of permissions granted after 1 April 2012. If permission for this application is not granted before this date due to delay in finalising eh s.106 agreement or the referral to the Mayor, the applicant is likely have to re-assess the overall scheme viability, which may lead to a revised scheme or s.106 package and a further assessment being required by officers before being taken back to planning applications committee."


Well, let us explain. An S106 or section 106 is a type of planning agreement between a developer and a council. It makes provision for all sorts of lovely community things like social housing, health centres and the like. The sort of things, for example, that the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates element of this development are about.

Councils charge developers something called a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). For example, the Chelsea Barracks development netted Westminster Council a £2million CIL. H&F will recieve quite a chunk of change. However, the paragraph above is the planning officer pointing out to councillors that from April 1st, developments ALSO have to pay the Mayor's Community Infrastructure Levy, a new charge that Boris managed to force through in order to raise a few hundred million to essentially help pay for Crossrail. The budget for EC does not include the Mayor's CIL.....

Hammersmith and Fulham, therefore (and as we pointed out in recent blogs) are in something of a rush to get the S106 plan through and those pesky residents at WKE and GG are not helping matters. If they don't for whatever reason get the plan through, CapCo are liable for a very nasty new charge on the development, which may mean, as the officer points out, that CapCo will reconsider the whole masterplan and make changes to it. And who knows what they might do then eh? What with Chelsea and their deep pockets waiting in the wings. Not to mention Big Old Boris and his covetous eyes.

Do CapCo really want to proceed with the current plan? We don't know because it is our judgement that they will eventually find themselves in clover whatever the final outcome. But the clock is ticking for H&F on this development and with every new phase, we can see the motivations - the many motivations - behind their approach to the SB issue. And, we have to say it again, the weakening of Chelsea's position without those shares. They have to wait to see how things pan out now, rather than driving aggressively into the heart of the matter.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Planning hearings ahoy! And look who have piled in..

The Seagrave Road development (part of the overall Earls Court masterplan) is coming before the LBHF Planning Committee on 16th Feb and they’ve published the planning documents. Included is the following official comment on the proposals from Chelsea FC:

Chelsea Football Club (CFC):
2.41 Have commented on both the application relating to the Seagrave Road site and the application relating to the main site. In their view the current applications fail to take advantage of the potential for a new strategic leisure, cultural and visitor attraction, such as might be provided by a new stadium with conference and exhibition spaces. They therefore consider the applications premature in advance of the EC&WKOA SPD and have requested that any decisions on the applications are deferred until the SPD has been adopted.

This is quite an old piece of information, i.e that the club (as well as Boris) have proposed that the project should include a stadium.

This is quite interesting in itself but see the Joint RBKC/LBHF Draft SPD (Supplementary Planning Document) and the comments received (see ). Chelsea FC have  responded in great depth to almost every aspect of the plan – effectively making a forceful case for the inclusion of a stadium as a potential development option. A comment in the Cultural Strategy document is particularly interesting – setting out the overall reasons why a new stadium in Earls Court makes sense for everyone and outlining the likely features of such a stadium. 

The submission was made by Stuart Robinson, executive director of CBRE UK, one of the world's largest commercial property and planning advisory companies. It is interesting to note that he also acts for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea quite frequently but this is probably of little consequence in this regard.

"The framework should be amended to allow for the incorporation of a 60-65,000 seater stadium which offers the following benefits:- a ‘state of the art facility’ of the highest architectural and environmental design, which will be entirely in keeping with London’s status as a world city and sporting centre and which will provide jobs and social outreach benefits in the local community;- an opportunity to improve the sustainable performance of the stadium operation by effecting a significant modal shift in methods of transport used by spectators whilst introducing state of the art energy technology and other sustainable design features;- a masterplanning approach which could incorporate a stadium into the urban framework thereby providing significant improvements in health and safety for spectators;- a more diverse development scheme whereby the injection of a robust high-value commercial operation, such as a state of the art professional sports stadium, with related conferencing, hotel, retail, restaurant and bars, 

could both improve the deliverability of the overall Opportunity Area vision and could do so in a timescale which is substantially better than that which is envisaged in the current draft of the SPD. This is an advantage not only in terms of cash flow and deliverability of the infrastructure needed to enable the quantum of development envisaged in the SPD (and related strategic policies) but it will also help to minimise the disruption to the local community during the redevelopment process.

- It is entirely recognised that any major new football stadium within the Opportunity Area will need to ensure that the public transport infrastructure (and other transport improvements) are in place so as to ensure that match day visitors can access the stations with a substantially improved modal split compared to currently existing facilities. This will be in line with the general transport objectives set out in Section 7 of the Draft SPD. However, it will also ensure that the upgrades needed to the relevant stations (and related infrastructure and facilities) are provided in time to accommodate stadium related trips when the new stadium opens. These improvements will greatly benefit the general community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year. - If CFC were to be the club to build a new stadium, there are substantial off site planning benefits, in terms of the redevelopment of CFC’s present stadium site. 

The circa 13 acre stadium site presents the opportunity (subject to achieving a suitable planning permission)for major residential led development, with its attendant improvements for residents in the Fulham Broadway area, in an eminently sustainable location. The release of this site will ensure that there is no significant loss of homes by the incorporation of the stadium in the Opportunity Area. - 

We are aware that the Mayor and other boroughs have already recognised the power of sporting events to deliver major regeneration benefits and suggest that this project has the potential to do so in the OA also. 

The SPD will not be committing the borough to such a form of development but it should be drafted so as to allow for its possibility as part of a robust delivery and regeneration strategy. - The Earl’s Court and West Kensington Area and indeed the Counters Creek Valley have always played a role as the home of major cultural and spectator facilities in West London. Chelsea FC plc is keen to ensure that the opportunity is taken to explore how a new state of the art football stadium can be integrated in to this major development opportunity. This will enable Chelsea to continue to compete at the highest level of world football with facilities to match any major European city. Moreover with the proposed demolition of Earl’s Court, a stadium could deliver conference facilities as it does at Stamford Bridge, as required by the London Plan. To assist you in considering these representations, the enclosed Tabulated report contains specific amendments to the Draft SPD which we believe will achieve the necessary flexibility to enable the stadium option to be considered in the detailed masterplanning and delivery of regeneration in the OA without undermining the design, environmental and other development criteria which the OA rightly requires."

We have highlighted two important elements of this contribution. The first shows how the club is suggesting that its involvement make the entire EC development plans more viable, something to which we have alluded before. In other words, us building a stadium at Earls Court means the entire project is more viable and achievable because we would do it quickly and with cash.  The second highlighted section points out that the council's residential led ethos will be satisfied by the use of SB for the homes they say they want in the borough. The third is the clincher; they remind H&F that the Mayor wants a stadium there too. The councils have essentially responded that a stadium proposal could come forward at a later date.  As we have told you, a stadium was becoming acceptable cultural provision. Chelsea are being precluded from even putting a plan forward at present by the persistent suggestion that it is not provided for in the framework. They will obviously have to take their chances with the process and consultation with residents but they appear to think they have a scheme that would satisfy the concerns.
H&F are chancing their arm...

Para 1.16 of the SPD sets out that the SPD has been prepared in response to the development aspirations of Capco and the potential for the redevelopment of their landholdings to act as a catalyst for regeneration of the wider Opportunity Area. The Local Authorities’ Core Strategies identify that regeneration of the area should be residential led. With these two factors in mind, the approach to masterplanning of the area and thus, the illustrative scenarios has not included a new stadium within the development area.

The SPD does not preclude a stadium coming forward. The Culture Strategy Key Objectives sets out the expectation that any comprehensive regeneration of the area should include a replacement cultural, leisure and visitor destination.

Were an application for a football stadium to be submitted, the scheme would need to be assessed on its own merits. Nevertheless, the SPD would act as the framework against which the application would be assessed. Therefore, any application would need to demonstrate that the proposals would satisfy the Key Principles and Key Objectives set out in the SPD.

Para 1.14 of the SPD sets out that the purpose of the SPD is to supplement existing policies in Development Plan Documents. Neither the London Plan nor the boroughs’ Core Strategies identify the OA as being appropriate for a football stadium. However, the SPD does not preclude a stadium coming forward in due course. The acceptability of any proposal would need to be considered on its individual merits having regard to policy, the Key Principles and Key Objectives set out in the SPD and any technical studies or evidence submitted as part of any application

All of which is them trying to hold off the tide....their strategy document is under serious pressure to be amended and Chelsea have taken the trouble to attach a whole addendum laying out how that could be done.

So, what this all means in effect is that Chelsea are applying a great deal of pressure, saying that this SDP is in a sense, discriminatory and indeed goes against the Mayors London wide strategy. This is a high risk game of brinkmanship. 

It is more than just interesting to note that Chelsea have clearly done a great deal of work on the idea and the thoroughness of their submission suggests that perhaps the stadium design for EC that we heard about, but doubted, may have had some truth in it.  But what else it shows is that whilst the club do not have the CPO shares, the council are somewhat emboldened in their position. 

We would also suggest that the nature of this thickening plot gives a good indication of just how difficult it is for the club to give too much away.  Now this is starting to come out into the open, one can only hope the scare stories about land grabs and Milton Keynes will start to find their rightful place in the dustbin of debate. 

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Please please please let us sell your homes...

Into our possession has flown an intriguing plea by Hammersmith and Fulham council to residents of West Ken and Gibbs Green estates in the form of a letter.  We reprint it below in full.

What does it mean?  Most obviously, it means the council have met with some very strong resistance to their plans (also see our blog about resignations) and have decided to make a plea (whilst not saying a great deal about the deal that will see them - hopefully, it would appear - make £100 million). As we have pointed out, they are very desperate for this development to go ahead, hence their behaviour towards Chelsea and this letter rather demonstrates quite how desperate.

The council are making assurances about the number of 'moves' residents will have to make. But they are vague about time lines, they are vague about how much money they are actually going to get from CapCo and they are trying to offer reassurances about CapCo's finances (not terribly reassuring ironically). We suspect that the council is being asked to consider a far more staged set of instalments of the £100 million bonanza. The paragraphs numbered 7 & 8 are the really interesting ones in this respect. It is also worth noting the 'pledge' that residents will have to move only once; it is likely the consultation threw this up as a big issue and H&F are having to renegotiate the phase schedule - which may not sit well with CapCo's plans, hence the 'confidential negotiations'.  Are CapCo are playing hard ball over both the schedule of phases and the amount of money that this will cost them and thus how much they want to give the council? £100 million is now being talked of as an 'approximate' Perhaps, if we put this another way and used the vernacular; 'If you want us to build everything in small phases to keep those residents at WKE and GG happy, then you can eff right off with your £100 million. And if you want us to build in those phases then you can get your money like that too'. Or words to that effect.  This letter certainly doesn't read like a joint effort by H&F and CapCo if you ask us. There are a couple of important 'ifs' in the letter for those paying close attention.

Will this letter 'reassure' the residents? Will it mean they will back the scheme? They obviously haven't thus far and the consultation's extension is very telling. Very telling indeed. Clearly the formal consultation was a bit of a disaster.  It is still in the balance of course (and there are many other problems at the other end of this development in Earl's Court itself) and we must stress that, but they are certainly struggling. Residents are clearly concerned that the ifs and buts and vagueness of the letter appears to support a view that CapCo might not be in a position to either complete all the phases nor perhaps even bother with the estates development at all. Not much security and certainty for the residents then......

We did tell you this was a pretty ferocious battle and our club are, despite officially being nothing to do with it, right at its heart. It is a monumental game of bluff.

We are sorry if these posts sound labyrinthine and a little confusing at times. It is just the nature of the politics. So, the letter.....

Dear Resident,

West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates Consultation

The Council is currently consulting local residents about whether to include the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates in wider plans to redevelop the area around Earls Court by entering into a so called  "Conditional Land Sale Agreement". The consultation is currently due to last until Friday 17 February. I wrote to you in early January enclosing the Information Pack and a feedback form for this consultation exercise. 

During the course of the consultation exercise, it has become increasingly apparent to the Council that some residents have concerns about the reliability of assurances that the development will proceed in full, and about the time-scale, if the Conditional Land Sale Agreement is entered into with the proposed developer, EC Properties (a subsidiary of Capital and Counties Properties plc, the owner of the Earls Court buildings). Negotiations with EC Properties are continuing on these very issues, among others. 

The Council has decided that in the light of the progress of those negotiations and the consultation responses we have received to date, the consultation period should be extended until Monday 12 March 2012. This is intended to enable local residents to respond to the following further information in this letter, which is provided by way of update and to clarify further the proposals for the Estates. The negotiation of commercial terms with the developer is ongoing and the details of the negotiations are confidential, but the agreement will include the following main points if the Conditional Land Sale Agreement is entered into.

1. As we have already made clear, residents will not be asked to move temporarily while new replacement homes are built. The "one move" promise is achievable because the Seagrave Road Car Park site provides a site for the provision of the first 200 new homes to replace existing properties on the Estates.

2. The rest of the re-provisioning of homes can then take place in phases, without residents having to move away to temporary accommodation. New properties can be built and provided to residents to replace properties that are demolished, on a phase by phase basis. Because the Council has pledged that no one will have to move more than once, the new homes must be built before those they replace are vacated. This takes time but we believe is the right way to proceed.

3. If the Conditional Land Sale Agreement proceeds, it will be a fundamental requirement of the developer, EC Properties, that it must build the necessary new homes before demolishing existing properties on the land acquired. The developer will not be able to acquire any of the land on the Estates without first having constructed new homes elsewhere in the development area, to replace those to be demolished. 

4. It is envisaged that the first moves to new homes to be built on the Seagrave Road Car Park site, which the developer already owns, could take place as early as 2015. The developer would have a maximum of five years from the date of the Conditional Land Sale Agreement in which to exercise its option to purchase the estate land.

5. The subsequent phases will be determined by agreement between the Council and the developer. Although the developer will not be legally bound to proceed with each of the subsequent phases, the developer will be paying approximately £100 million before it receives all of the land and will be unable to obtain all the commercial advantages it seeks unless it proceeds with all the phases. The Council is confident that each phase will proceed as planned.

6. The Council will have the right to require revisions to any phase of the land sale to ensure that it is satisfied that the remainder of the estate can continue to function as a place to live while that phase is developed and that replacement housing to match the needs of the residents in that phase will be available elsewhere in the development site.

7. Some residents have expressed concerns about a possible risk of the developer becoming unable to meet its financial obligations. The Council is confident that the financial capacity of the developer is robust and that it will be able to meet its obligations. The Council has already received £15 million from the developer (£5 million of which is on a non-refundable basis, and the remainder of which will amount to a down payment on the total of approximately £100 million for the Estates, if they are included in the redevelopment).

8. The overall price of approximately £100 million is already agreed in principle. The precise payment terms are still being negotiated and the negotiations are confidential. The Council anticipates that it will have received the full (approximately) £100 million by 2020, although the phases of construction and demolition may take considerably longer than that to complete, assuming that all the phases proceed as both the Council and the developer intend. The developer is seeking to negotiate the terms of any refund of part of the overall price for the land in the event that not all the phases are completed. The exact terms are still subject to negotiation.

I hope you will read this letter carefully and let us know your views by Monday 12 March 2012. You can give us your views by:

• Completing the feedback form and returning it in the pre-paid envelope previously sent to you (if you need another form please telephone 020-8753 5571 or 020-8753 3334)
• Logging on to the the Council's website:
• Writing a letter to: Philip Morris/Sarah Lovell, Housing and Regeneration, 3rd Floor, Town Hall
Extension, King Street, W6 9JU.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Melbourne Barrett
Executive Director, Housing and Regeneration
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham

Saturday 4 February 2012

Getting the picture?

As an adjunct to our recent blogs on Earl's Court and the difficulties facing H&F council over Abramovic "having a proper look at it" according to a well placed government source, we thought you might be interested in a few links that contribute to the whole picture. The first is this little story about a grandfather who is objecting to the council's plan to knock his house down.

It is an interesting read, not least because it explains the deal that the council entered into with CapCo...and usefully points out that, should the plans at EC fall through, or at least fail to include the West Ken Estates, the council will have to return ten million pounds to the developer (and lose the large wad they would get from its sale). Question marks about the whole deal are also asked in this piece from the Guardian

Finally, this page gives you an idea of how the shadow of Boris looms over Greenhalgh and his acquisitive plans (remember, along with Chelsea, Boris believes a stadium is a reasonable development to be considered for Earl's Court.) Pay particular attention to the third bullet point at the top of the page....

So you can see why H&F are not being totally open with fans about their intentions. CapCo are in serious financial difficulties and there are possibly only two players in the market with the sort of ready cash Chelsea can provide. It is a game of delay and hope (we ought to remember Boris has an election coming up too). This is the complex and pretty vicious bear pit that the club are having to fight in. Naturally, the battle is not only about the West Ken estate because even were the CapCo development to dissolve in chaos, and were Chelsea to subsequently propose a stadium, there would be battles to fight. H&F are now joined closely with Kensington and Chelsea as part of a Whitehall encouraged bi borough local government model; a real Eric Pickles baby. As such their planning departments are supposed to work even more closely as one unit (not going too well we hear). Opposition would come from local government for sure but we would then refer you back to the Mayor's planning page above....The leader of K&C council, we hear, lives right in the heart of the disputed area..

Battersea is also a very live project too. It is difficult for us to reveal too much on this project without compromising those who have provided the information but previous blogs have given some indications as to Chelsea's activity there. What excites us most is the speed with which this became a potential site so soon after the EGM; it is a fascinating series of events.

So an intriguing and genuinely exciting set of battles are being fought. Our hope is that Chelsea fans can draw together to ensure that the club can fight these battles with both eyes facing forward as opposed to having one cast behind them, wary of their own side. And although it sounds blindingly obvious to say it (and no doubt give rise to suspicion among those determined to see the club in a bad light) the club would now be in a stronger position were they to have the CPO issue resolved already. The problem for them now is that their tactics are more in the camp of wait and see as opposed to being able to force issues more aggressively. It also means that they will probably, we suspect, have to wait longer in order to make another firm offer because even the club will have realised how easy it is for fans to gather behind a conspiracy theory. So presumably the idea of housekeeping will be null and void and an offer will need to wait until something concrete is on the table - but we cannot pretend a concrete offer is a much less certain outcome anytime soon. Nothing of course will be guaranteed, even if Chelsea are putting in a planning application. A cleft stick if ever there was one.

What we think is absolutely beyond doubt is that the talk of moving "anywhere" is as absurd now as it was when Sayno first printed those leaflets. What we find amazing is that much of what we tell you here can be pieced together from information in the public domain but perhaps you have to have the right mindset to be able to accept the picture it draws? The club will rarely verify any of it because, well, they simply can't. One can imagine it is akin to the one armed man hanging from a cliff with itchy bollocks. At the time of the EGM, we felt that things were pretty obvious. So did the club presumably but they and we were wrong to think that others would see that too! However, the picture is becoming clearer and clearer and our frustration at the way in which we fans hamstrung the club grows. But hey, at least The Sun pointed out a friend of Bruce Buck bought a few shares legally....

Friday 3 February 2012

A bit more on Earl's Court and Hammersmith and Fulham

Amid all of the accusations and conspiracies that have been forced onto the issue of what Chelsea's future holds (and we ought to remember that whilst we all might have different preferences for what that is, we are agreed on wanting that future to be bright) the difficult political game that Chelsea are having to play is often lost. Fans have tended to the knee-jerk assumption that there is malice aforethought in all that CFC do.

It remains our firm belief that although the EGM offer was characterised as a labyrinthine plot, it was, in effect, precisely what Buck said it was, i.e "Housekeeping". We know that people find that implausible and that they leapt on the three mile offer, the 2020 deadline etc but one really only has to think what alternative the club could have chosen. If they had a plan to move somewhere how easy would it have been to publish glossy pictures of a stadium? The truth is most likely to be very simple; they had irons in the fire, were being approached and wanted freedom to operate. Since the EGM CFCTruth have consistently revealed the moves Chelsea have made. The recent flip flopping by H&F council is evidence of this and we hope that the talks we know Chelsea are having regularly with the council will result - very soon - in a clear picture of what the council believes is possible regarding expansion of SB. The club and the planners will need to agree on the possibilities. Rather than the recent email, read out at the AGM, in which the council accused the club of trying to persuade THEM that expansion is not possible, the council will need to agree with CFC what IS technically viable, leaving the club free to explain to fans how that possibility adds up to a business case or not. Once we have a clear picture we should be able to move forward and clear this issue once and for all.

What fans have to understand is that the council (see our last blog) are desperate for Chelsea to stay at Stamford Bridge or take up residence in one of their edge of the borough redevelopments. Chelsea have ruled out the latter and so now the council are staring down the barrel of a gun which is why they have been playing their risky game. It must be incredibly frustrating for the club to be hit from both sides; on the one hand they have (as one well placed associate of the owners of Battersea put it to us recently) "been asked to show the colour of their money in the form of one hundred quid shares", and on the other have the council stir up ill informed paranoia among fans. It ought not be difficult to appreciate the commercial sensitivities that the club are obliged to respect from both their own point of view and that of those on the other side of the table?

So with the various whispers and barely concealed nods and winks coming through CFCTruth wires, we are very encouraged by the recent developments in the EC/CapCo situation. Boris is key here too. The joint planning development guidelines issued by Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea state that there should be a cultural facility. Anyone who is paying attention will have noted that the club and Boris have made it clear that a stadium should be considered at the development. Boris's office is certainly putting the CapCo development through the ringer, sending it back for revision after revision. CFCTruth comes by its information through all manner of unusual means and it is interesting to note that at recent 2012 legacy meetings which explored the cultural provisions post Olympics, the word "cultural" was discussed in terms that were widely perceived to include a football stadium. Perhaps the lobbying by Chelsea in this respect will be unnecessary?

Lots of ifs and buts for sure but the picture that is unequivocally emerging is one of Chelsea sitting, mantis like, over the EC consultation. We recently heard from a previously unknown source that the club have even had designs knocked up for EC but this should be treated with some scepticism as we cannot verify it. Should the whole CapCo/H&F plans fall apart then we would put money on something very interesting happening. We have said for some time that CapCo are actively courting the Chelsea dollar (or any dollar to be fair) indeed this is pretty common knowledge among those in the London property business. Hammersmith and Fulham know this too and suspect their partner in the EC development of playing both ends against the middle. Greenhalgh, the leader of H&F is thus playing a limited hand; especially knowing, as he does, that the whole thing can be removed from the council's control and that he himself is off out of the door soon.

And of course, what Chelsea need to have is certainty. There is an argument that losing the EGM, whilst giving some fans a warm feeling of thwarting an avaricious evil Russian billionaire, merely tied Chelsea's already shackled hands even tighter. CFCTruth would urge all fans to try to understand the wider picture. It really isn't that bloody difficult to appreciate. We will do what we can to inform you and point you in the right direction and of course, should we happen across any information that we ourselves are not happy to hear, we will put that forward for your consideration too. And we say all this without mentioning Battersea....that is another story entirely. Perhaps for another day - soon.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Earl's Court and H&F's dangerous game

Many of you may not have noticed the shenanigans over at the Earl's Court development.
The whole project (being closely scrutinised by Boris and in financial as well as political difficulty) is hanging by a thread. CFCTruth have given past pointers on some of the underlying issues but we are intrigued to hear of recent turmoil. You can read about it here

So what is this all about? Well, it is a very strong indicator of why H&F are playing silly games with Chelsea FC. H&F under the soon to depart Greenhalgh are a very avaricious council; cut, commercialise and privatise is their motto. The CapCo development is an opportunity for them to claw in £100 million from the sale of the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates, get some free housing and rid themselves of what is considered a difficult social hotspot. With the resignation of two key individuals the already difficult situation is made more so; read the linked article. If the residents of those two estates manage to block the sale then the whole development is in danger - and with huge numbers of objectors and countless forced revisions it is not exactly in a good place now.

Added to this cocktail of uncertainty is the prospect of Chelsea FC riding to CapCo's financial rescue (their statements in the article are fooling nobody who is aware of their parlous financial state) and offering a reduced development of housing and facilities which includes a stadium - a prospect, we are happy to inform you, our dear Mayor would welcome. Now, with the horrendously strong objections currently being aired by the residents around Earl's Court, one might think that a stadium stood little chance. You would be partly right; but would they prefer 7000 homes and all the attendant traffic and constant populous that would bring or 3000 homes and a stadium that attracted 60k every fortnight with new stations and access? It makes one think..

So why wouldn't H&F welcome that? Well, were such a plan be put into the mix once the current planning nightmare is ended, the Mayor may well choose to reassume the entire development under his office. The council wouldn't get their £100 million because there would be no need to incorporate the West Ken estate in such a plan. They would also have the entirely new project that would be the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, a project from which they might gather some social housing, but not much - and certainly not £100 million - and the residents of Fulham will be as cussed as those in Earl's Court.

Of course, there would be no guarantees that all of this would pan out the way CapCo and Chelsea wanted it to but H&F are taking no chances. Their chosen policy is to prevent Chelsea from moving away from their current site. Unless it is to a well known development in the
NW of the borough...but Chelsea have canned any thought of that so the council are in a bind. In order to prevent the club from putting their oar in at EC, the council have basically chosen to pursue a route, via SayNoCPO, helping fan the flames of mistrust and suspicion that the club have not considered development of SB. In so doing, they are hoping beyond hope, that the CPO share transfer will never be countenanced. In reality, this is a delaying tactic, designed to try and get the CapCo development over the line and thus remove the threat of a Chelsea bail out. Added to this is the fact that CapCo indeed see Chelsea as their Knight in Shining armour; CapCo will be quids in whichever development wins.

The resignation of Osband and Hall is a serious blow to H&F because we must realise this company was set up to essentially sell the idea to residents. Chelsea must now crank the pressure up on H&F. Their email to a Sayno questioner at the AGM in which they claimed, after meetings with the club, that Stamford Bridge COULD be developed (after, it has to be acknowledged, telling Sayno that NO discussions have taken place!) must be expanded upon by the council if they want us to believe there is anything other than greed behind their attempts to sow mistrust and suspicion among Chelsea fans. They are playing a risky game and it just got a hell of a lot more precarious.