Chelsea caught offside in ‘rights of light’ dispute with local family

Posted by Andrew Morgan, 5th February 2018
Chelsea football club is one of football’s powerhouses and is known for having some of the world’s best talent within its ranks. It is also known for having a Russian billionaire oil tycoon as an owner who is used to getting what he wants!

However, not everything has gone Roman Abramovich’s way recently – especially in relation to the club’s ongoing £ 1 billion redevelopment of their current home stadium of Stamford Bridge in south west London. This time though, it is not the might of Manchester United or Real Madrid stopping the owner achieve his goals, but a local family with a house just a stone’s thrown away from the site of their proposed new 60,000 seat arena.

The family in question are the Crosthwaites, who own a neighbouring London cottage on the other side of train tracks separating their house from Chelsea’s stadium. They have successfully argued that the construction of a walk way over the railway by the side of the cottage will lead to a significant reduction in the amount of light received by the Crosthwaites’  living room and bedrooms and will interfere with their rights to light.

Chelsea has offered to compensate the Crosthwaites with a six figure sum in return for them releasing their right to light. However, the Crosthwaites could not be persuaded. Despite an agreement not being reached, Chelsea continued with construction. The Crosthwaites reacted by applying, and successfully obtaining, an injunction in May 2017, thus putting a halt to the stadium works.

However, the club is now looking to persuade the local Council to exercise its powers under section 203 of the House and Planning Act 2016. Under s203, a local Council may subject to certain conditions and subject to payment of compensation, carry out building work on land that has been acquired for planning purposes, even if that work involves an interference with the Crosthwaites’ rights to light.

This power to override rights extends to successors in title of the Council– as such, Chelsea are now looking to strike a deal with the Council for them to purchase part of the stadium for planning purposes and then immediately lease it back to the football club – thus overriding the Crosthwaites’ rights, and allowing Chelsea to continue to build their stadium, provided of course that the Crosthwaithes don’t successfully challenge the purchase.

A warning to developers

This dispute illustrates the massive impact rights to light can have on development plans.  Developers should always carry out a right to light survey and seek advice on mitigating the risks of rights to light claims well in advance of commencing work on site.

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