LONDON -- Chelsea's stadium project overcame a significant hurdle on Monday as Hammersmith and Fulham Council agreed to give themselves the power to compulsorily purchase the land at the centre of a "right to light" dispute.
The Crosthwaites family took out an injunction against the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, claiming the new 60,000-seater stadium will severely reduce the amount of natural light on their property, where they have lived for 50 years.
But the council on Monday swiftly and unanimously agreed to the recommendation set out by head of planning and regeneration John Finlayson at a meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall that buying the land adjacent to the Crosthwaites' property and leasing it back to Chelsea was necessary to allow beneficial regeneration of the area.
Only one councillor, cabinet member for housing Lisa Homan, recused herself from the vote as she is a Chelsea season-ticket holder.
No one spoke on behalf of the Crosthwaites or Chelsea on the issue and there were no additional comments before the remaining councillors declared their agreement to the compulsory purchase.
Chelsea asked the council to intervene after the Crosthwaites reportedly turned down a six-figure compensation offer from the club and took out the injunction in May.
The Crosthwaites' "right to light" dispute with Chelsea, which dates to 2015, will now transfer to the council and once the compulsory purchase is completed the injunction will be invalidated. This is unlikely to be the end of the matter, however, as the family still have legal avenues open to them -- including the possibility of asking for a judicial review.
Chelsea's proposed redevelopment of Stamford Bridge received planning approval a year ago and has also been given the green light by mayor of London Sadiq Khan, but the project has since encountered spiralling costs and delays and the club claimed that work could not proceed as long as the injunction remained in place.
The Crosthwaites, whose property actually falls within the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea, claimed that Chelsea could end the dispute by revising their plans and scaling back "the disproportionate amount of hospitality seating" in the proposed stadium.
They also believe that the club's successful attempt to sidestep the injunction with the help of Hammersmith and Fulham is not in the public interest and possibly even illegal.
Barring any further legal or logistical delays, Chelsea expect to have to play away from Stamford Bridge for as many as four years while the old stadium and the surrounding buildings are demolished and the new arena is constructed, and hope to return in time for the start of the 2024-25 season.