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. 

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