Law Lords to hear Fulham FC v residents

Local residents are taking their objections to Fulham FC's development plans to the House of Lords, reports Roger Pearson.

A major legal battle aimed at blocking development plans for Fulham FC's famous Craven Cottage Ground is now to be fought in the House of Lords.

The Law Lords have given leave for protestors against a #7m development plan for the site to argue that planning consent for the project should never have been granted.

The scheme includes a 15,000 all-seater stadium and 142 riverside apartments, and is argued to be crucial for the long term future of the club.

However, the protestors, led by local resident Lady Dido Berkley, are challenging an appeal court decision in February last year, in which the plan was given the all clear.

They argue that the ruling on 12 February, in which the appeal court upheld a High Court decision in March 1997 giving the green light for the development to continue, was wrong, and that the consent should have been declared unlawful.

In their appeal court challenge, Lady Berkley and other objectors claimed that former Environment Secretary, John Gummer, and the inspector he appointed to hold a public inquiry, did not consider the environmental implications of the scheme. They claim that there was failure to examine the impact the plan would have on part of the river front of the Thames which would be involved, and which is a nature conservation area.

The objectors argued that a full environmental statement should have been called for prior to assessment of the impact.

When the case reached the Court of Appeal, the judges held that there were "blemishes" in the procedure through which the planning consent was obtained and that Gummer had failed to consider the need to prepare an environmental statement as required under European law.

Despite that, however, the judges held that there had been a thorough inquiry into the scheme and that even if the environmental statement had been produced, it would not have affected the outcome of the inquiry.

Now though, Lords Browne-Wilkinson, Hope and Hutton have granted leave for Lady Berkley to appeal the February decision.