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.

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