On January 11, 2017, so almost exactly one year ago, Chelsea’s new stadium was granted unanimous approval from Hammersmith & Fulham Council after over two years of planning and consulting effort from the club. Two months later, the Mayor of London gave his approval as well, and it looked like we finally might be off and running. But while the project has experienced a couple other, not entirely unexpected delays since — latest target move-in date is only 2024 — this latest issue is something new and, most crucially, needs intervention from the local council.
Well, technically it’s not new as it’s been going on since July, but things are coming to a head this week and next as H&F Council will be asked to step in and “prevent Herzog & de Meuron’s new stadium for Chelsea FC being scuppered by rights of light objections”. That’s the phrasing from the Architects Journal, which then the Daily Mail’s headline writer put as “Chelsea call on the council to save them from High Court injunction issue threatening ‘very real risk’ of stopping £1bn Stamford Bridge redevelopment.”
There are plenty of scary words in there, including that whole business with “right of light”, which is the idea that new development cannot block existing developments’ sunlight. Jokes about sunlight in London aside, this is a very real and very powerful thing, and the way Chelsea planned to deal with it was to buy up the “air rights” to 50 or so properties behind the current East Stand (between Fulham Road and the cemetary) and possibly elsewhere around the new stadium, offering above market rate prices in compensation for blocking their sunlight. Chelsea have agreed “preliminary deals” with the majority of the property owners, but two properties are proving stubborn and it’s escalated now to the point where the lawyers have gotten involved (thus the spectre of a High Court injunction).
Here’s a Google Maps satellite photo of the area, with the two adjacent properties in question circled in red based on the drawings shown in the Mail article.
So, the idea now is that Chelsea have asked the local council to use their powers to step in and make sure that this injunction cannot halt the development. It gets a little technical here, so I’ll let Ollie Todd explain.
Chelsea have told the council they will be unable to start development work or secure financing while there remains a risk that the injunction proceedings could succeed.
Therefore the council plan to use their powers under planning law to buy the air rights over part of Stamford Bridge and the railway line which sits between the stadium and the affected homes.
They would then lease the land back to Chelsea and railway operators Network Rail, meaning the property owners would be entitled to compensation but would not be able to prevent the redevelopment.
The “part of Stamford Bridge” identified is a roughly triangular area between what is now the Millennium Hotel (green roof in the photo above) and the Copthorne Hotel (abutted to the stadium) and extending about halfway up behind the current East Stand (the one you can see fully). Any issues relating to actual land ownership (the CPO situation) should be nonexistent thanks to the CPO’s approval of a plan to offer Abramovich a 999-year lease on it.
It sounds like the council is amicable to doing all this, but we won’t know for sure until next week.