The Board of Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) should like to provide shareholders with a few more details from our recent meeting with councillors and planners from the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham (LBHF).
The meeting was informal, not minuted, but our intention is to state the broad positions presented by LBHF to keep shareholders informed about some of the issues surrounding the Stamford Bridge stadium site. We also recognise that Chelsea Football Club (CFC) may disagree with many if not all of LBHF's statements set forth below.
As shareholders are aware, the LBHF issued a strongly-worded statement on 9 March arising from the publication of documents by CFC relating to the unfeasibility of redeveloping the stadium.
As explained to us during the meeting with them on 23 April, LBHF stated that they take a different view on certain issues put forward in the CFC statement.
We believe the following to be a fair reflection of the main points they made to us but, to be clear, the below are the views of the councillors and planners and not necessarily those of the CPO Board:
LBHF disagree with Chelsea FC that it is not viable to redevelop the stadium at Stamford Bridge.
They believe that an additional 13,000 seats could be added to the Stamford Bridge capacity, although they recognise that this would be achieved 'with difficulty.'
The council would find a 55,000 capacity at Stamford Bridge acceptable.
LBHF do not believe there would be many issues regarding local residents' 'right of light' from a development of that size.
In order to provide extra egresses to clear that capacity from the area, LBHF believed that just one end of terrace property would need to be compulsory purchased and removed. They questioned whether CFC had inquired as to a possible purchase of Oswald Stoll Buildings, next to Stamford Bridge.
They rejected the view that several listed and other buildings would need to be acquired and demolished, and they would not find it acceptable for CFC to compulsory purchase and remove adjacent buildings on the north side of Fulham Road.
LBHF notes they were aware of discussions some time ago between CFC and Transport for London (TfL) regarding a possible new £3.5m 'raft' built over the Underground line to the north-west of the stadium, on which outside broadcast trucks could be parked (these trucks currently reduce the stadium capacity on Champions League match nights). They believe CFC did not pursue this with LBHF or TfL.
Before LBHF could fully examine the viability of any redevelopment Chelsea FC would need to submit a planning application. They stated CFC have not submitted any planning applications of that nature in recent years.
LBHF pledged to form a dedicated council team to assist the planning process once any stadium redevelopment application had been made.
LBHF have not carried out any feasibility study of the Stamford Bridge site of their own.
Until the end of last year they had had several meetings with CFC and felt the ball was still in CFC's court.
LBHF have filmed and monitored crowd control at recent sold out matches and found that with a full house and the existing capacity Fulham Road cleared in half an hour after the final whistle.
LBHF suggested that CFC had not looked fully at the revenue that can be extracted from each seat with the existing stadium capacity of around 41,800.
For example, the club might consider not allowing new season ticket buyers when existing holders do not renew. This would allow the club to sell more tickets on a match-by-match basis at a higher price.
LBHF also questioned how much CFC would generate from any sale of the Stamford Bridge side, citing the fact that 40% of any new development housing must be allocated for affordable social housing.
According to LBHF's figures, Fulham FC brings £15m into the borough per annum; their estimate was that CFC generates £30m for local business. However, the councillors said they receive two or three letters each week from local residents complaining about CFC's presence.
LBHF urged CPO to challenge CFC's findings by engaging experts in the fields of planning, transport, health and safety.
LBHF felt that there was no chance of CFC being allowed to move to Earl's Court. There were no plans to put a stadium within that development, and in their view such a move would not be countenanced by the secretary of state.
It was always the Board's intention to make this information available at this time. We of course have noted last Friday (4 May) that Chelsea disclosed that they are one of the bidders for the land including and surrounding Battersea power station.
As a consequence, the club has agreed to meet with us within the next ten days to discuss their future plans. We will report back to shareholders following that meeting.
The CPO Board