Chelsea's Battersea Plan "Not a Goer"

Football club's bid for power station could be doomed

Chelsea Football Club's bid to buy Battersea Power Station and created "one of the most iconic football stadiums in the world" may be doomed.

To succeed in its plan to move south of the river, the club would require permission from newly re-elected Mayor Boris Johnson to redevelop the landmark Grade II listed power station.

However, the Mayor's chief of staff and Deputy Mayor for planning, Sir Edward Lister, has already said: " I don't think the site is suitable for Chelsea, and nor do a lot of people. It's not a goer. "

One reason for his rejection is that he claims the transport links to Battersea are not suitable for a mass influx of football fans, although Chelsea have offered to contribute towards the cost of an extension of the Northern Line to the power station.

Before moving, the club would also have to persuade Chelsea Pitch Owners, the group of fans who own the freehold at Stamford Bridge, to sell it back.

However, the club already failed in a first effort to persuade them at a meeting held on October 27 last year. In a vote held among Chelsea Pitch Owners shareholders over the purchase of the freehold, 61.6%  voted yes - but approval of 75% of the shareholders was needed to pass the proposal.

Chelsea will need to repeat this vote, hoping to achieve a more positive result, if they want to move out of Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are also facing competition from a number of other bidders for the historic site. Despite the cost, estimated to be around £300 million for the site itself and another £200 million paid as a contribution to the Northern Line Extension, ten companies are said to have made proposals to buy the site.

Renowned architect Sir Terry Farrell has also put together his own proposal for redevelopment of the site, which he hopes will attract developers. This scheme would see parts of the building demolished but retain the distinctive four white chimneys and walls and could cost less than £50 million, compared with the £5.5 billion cost of a previous proposal.

Alan Bloom, the joint administrator of the site for Ernst & Young, said they were encouraged by the strong level of interest, and added: " Our joint advisers, Ernst & Young Real Estate Corporate Finance and Knight Frank, are in the process of analysing the bids and will be providing us with their recommendations shortly."

Hammersmith and Fulham Council have also released a statement urging the club to reconsider moving out of the borough. Says Cllr Nick Botterill, H&F Council's deputy leader says: " Stamford Bridge is Chelsea’s historic home and it remains the council’s view that it should be their future home.

"We want the Blues to stay at Stamford Bridge and, if it can be done sensibly without negatively affecting local people, increase the ground's capacity so they can retain their position as one of Europe’s top clubs.

"We are proud to be the only borough in the country with three Premier League clubs and we do not want our local businesses and residents to lose out on the economic and social benefits that this brings.

" CFC is a thriving business which contributes significant benefits to the area and we will continue to work closely with the club to explore all possible avenues for keeping them here at their original home."

Wandsworth Council however, have not immediately rejected Chelsea's bid Instead, council leader Ravi Govindia said that the key to a successful bid was the delivery of the Northern Line Extension.

As well as Chelsea's promise to preserve all the significant aspects of Battersea Power Station, including the four iconic chimneys and wash towers along with the west turbine hall and control room, the club's proposal would include a town centre with substantial street-level retail shops, affordable housing and offices - all of which could benefit Wandsworth and bring a significant number of permanent jobs to the area.

May 8, 2012