Feeling the blues: Chelsea pensioner left in the dark by Stamford Bridge redevelopment

Chelsea Football Club have received the green light to proceed with their proposed £1bn redevelopment of their Stamford Bridge home in South West London.

The plans, to demolish the historic old ground and replace it with a 60,000-seater stadium, were first submitted to Hammersmith and Fulham council in November 2015, but have been delayed by challenges from some local residents.  Most of the objections related to the loss of light to the neighbouring properties as a result of the size of the proposed new East Stand which will house the club’s hospitality lounges.

While agreements were reached between the club and most of the 50 affected houses for compensation to be given to the residents in respect of the loss of light, Nicolas Crosthwaite, 69, and his family took out a High Court injunction to try to prevent the redevelopment from proceeding.  The Crosthwaite family are the owners of one of the closest properties to the current Stamford Bridge ground, and the family have stated that the “sunlight and daylight will be seriously affected” to five of their windows should the redevelopment plans go ahead.

A property can acquire an easement of light and air by proving 20 years of continuous use of the light/air.  While the Law Commission have recently (2014) published a paper entitled “Rights To Light”, no statutory changes have yet taken place.

Chelsea Football Club responded via their solicitors by offering the opinion that the entire plans were at risk if this objection was not overcome.  Following this the local authority decided to use their statutory powers to purchase a piece of land between the ground and the Crosthwaites’ cottage from Chelsea, and to lease that land back to the club, which in turn would enable the council to use similar statutory powers to overcome the injunction.

The council’s position appears to be that the benefit to the area of the development outweighs any individual loss that may be suffered by the immediate neighbours.  That said, the property in question sits in the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and that local authority are understood to be opposed to the development.

The most likely option now for the Crosthwaites would be to apply for a judicial review of the process by which the compulsory purchase order was obtained, although it remains to be seen whether they will take that step. A couple of questions that appear to be in need of answers are whether a local authority can use their statutory powers in this way when it negatively impacts a property in another borough, and whether they owe any duty of care to residents in a neighbouring borough.

One thing is for sure – given that the stadium was not expected to be ready until the 2024/2025 football season anyway, this could run and run.

If you require advice regarding “right to light” or similar issues please contact Andy Roscoe at Meaby&Co for advice: andy@meaby.co.uk or call 020 7703 5034.

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