Chelsea forced into extra time as family's fight for daylight blocks new £1bn stadium

Steve Bird
Thwarted: Chelsea FC's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich -  FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA

As a Russian oligarch worth an estimated $9.1 billion, Roman Abramovich will have no doubt become accustomed to getting his own way.

However, his ambitious plans to build a £1 billion new stadium for his Chelsea Football Club are being thwarted by an unlikely adversary - a family of four who fear a “loss of light” in their London cottage that overlooks the Stamford Bridge stadium where the redevelopment is to take place.

For more than 20 years, Nicolas, 69, and Lucinda Crosthwaite, 58, have lived, along with their children Louis, 23, and Rose, 25, in a Fulham house next to the Premier League team’s ground.

In 2014, the club began developing plans to create Europe’s most expensive and lavish stadium there. Last year, it was granted planning consent by Hammersmith and Fulham Council and received the backing of Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, because it was expected to bring an economic boost and jobs to the area.

Although the club has agreed to compensate most of the 50 neighbouring homes that will suffer as a result of the redesign, they have reached a stalemate with the Crosthwaites.

Aerial view of Stamford Bridge at night, Chelsea, London Credit: Jason Hawkes

In May, Mr Crosthwaite, a 69-year-old retired director of an investment company, took out a High Court injunction to stop the 60,000 capacity stadium going ahead because it would cast a shadow over their home.

Despite two years of negotiations with a reported offer of a six-figure sum to the Crosthwaites, the club’s lawyers have written to the council saying the family’s opposition “poses a clear risk” to the new stadium, with funding on hold until the issue is resolved.

Now councillors are being urged to use special powers to block the family’s injunction by overriding their right to light to allow building work to begin because it was in the wider “public interest”. Councillors will vote on whether to buy the disputed land, lease it back to the club and invoke special powers to override the family’s rights.

In a letter to the council, Rose Crosthwaite said the “sunlight and daylight will be seriously affected” to five of their windows by a proposed walkway, adding that the stadium would have an “unacceptable and harmful” effect on the area.

The FA Cup Final in progress between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground in 1921 Credit:  Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The family’s lawyers say the east stand that would loom over the home needs redesigning, and the planned 17,000 hospitality seats are excessive compared to stadia at other major clubs. They add that the club’s insistence that the council ride roughshod over the rights of the Crosthwaites was not in the public interest and possibly illegal.

Although a public consultation found 97.5 per cent of locals backed the redevelopment of the club’s 112-year home, some residents where homes cost more than £1 million, accused the club of being “land grabbers”.

One homeowner, who did not want to be named, said: "Chelsea are land grabbers, they are too big and think they can do anything they want."

Mr Crosthwaite refused to comment on his battle with Mr Abramovich, who counts Vladimir Putin among his friends.

The council will decide on whether to use their special powers to buy the land to be developed and then overrule the Crosthwaite’s right to light, a law allowing longstanding owner of a property with windows to continue to receive light.

The roof of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, was redesigned to allow a dip following a planning dispute with neighbours who successfully argued that the original plans would stop their “right to light”.