July 18, 2024

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Selhurst Park: Progress on stadium expansion but new application must go in

6 min read

After years of delays, Crystal Palace have made significant progress on the redevelopment of Selhurst Park.

However, they will be required to submit a new planning application, which could slow matters further, The Athletic understands.

Work has yet to begin on the stadium, despite planning permission being granted in principle and an agreement under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 — required for all major developments — to fund community works approved by the Mayor of London in 2020.

Yet The Athletic can reveal that despite the need to submit a new application, a breakthrough appears closer after the club and Croydon Council held positive and constructive talks.

Those conversations included the consideration of using a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to purchase a parcel of land on the site that is currently owned by supermarket giant Sainsbury’s.

The council is understood to be prepared to facilitate the CPO if Palace are willing to fund it. All parties are understood to be eager for the redevelopment to be taken forward as soon as possible.

The Athletic reported in April 2020 that a letter to Palace from the council led to renewed discussions and the Section 106 (S106) agreement was eventually reached. Further conversations are understood to have taken place at the end of last year and have continued into this one, although it is only in those recent meetings that real progress has been made.

The proposed redevelopment would increase the capacity of the stadium, surrounded by residential streets in south London, from 25,486 to 34,259.

A new main stand would hold 13,500 spectators — up from the current 5,627 — with a significant expansion of its corporate sections included. A restaurant and a retail unit are also proposed. The gap in the corner between the Holmesdale Road Stand at the south end of the stadium and the Arthur Wait Stand on its eastern side would also be filled in with an additional 683 seats.

However, an increase in the length of the pitch from 101.5m to 105m (to make Selhurst Park compliant with UEFA regulations and eligible to host tournament football) would result in a loss of 1,170 seats in the Whitehorse Lane Stand behind the north goal.

This all represents progress but a new planning application will now need to be put in, as the terms set out in the 2018 planning application do not comply with the London Plan adopted in 2021 (which covers how the capital will develop over the next 20 to 25 years, and informs decisions on planning).

If the S106 had been signed before the new London Plan was adopted, this would not have been a problem and no new application would be required.

It is understood that the process could take anywhere between several months and a year. Once it is agreed by the council, who consider it a priority, it will also have to be approved again by the Mayor of London.

That land owned by Sainsbury’s has always been a potential stumbling block.

Palace chairman Steve Parish has referenced what the club consider to be a “sliver of land” which can only be used for its current purpose — as a car park. It is this area that may be subject to a CPO — where land can be acquired by a public body (in this case, Croydon Council), without the consent of its owner.

(Photo: Crown Copyright/London Borough of Croydon)

Above, in red, is the outline for the footprint of the redeveloped stadium.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We’re actively engaged in discussions with the owners of Crystal Palace FC. Our latest proposals represent what we believe to be a fair and commercial offer, and we remain committed to arriving at a solution that works for everyone.”

In 2018, the club’s dedicated stadium website, which appears to no longer be active, said it thought that the work would take “up to three years” to complete at a cost of between £75 million and £100 million. The S106 will also see the club contribute between £750,000 and £1 million to improving the local area.

It is in the interest of all parties for this redevelopment to be completed. Croydon Council has severe financial problems and declared itself bankrupt in November 2020, while Palace would generate significant revenue from having lots more hospitality space in a new main stand.

A further stumbling block has been the acquisition of five council-owned and one privately-owned house on Wooderson Close, which back on to what will become the footprint of the stadium at its south western corner.

A deal, known as the “Wooderson Close agreement”, is in place with the council to supplement the S106.

This requires the club to provide 12 months’ notice of their intention to purchase the land, to ensure there is sufficient time to rehouse existing residents while meeting the “reasonable costs” of the council. The club would also pay a lump sum to the council for the loss of rental income.


Crystal Palace fans outside Selhurst Park (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

To meet the conditions of the draft London Plan set by the Greater London Authority, there must be “no net loss of affordable housing” and a “no net loss of dwellings scheme” (NNLD) in the borough.

Palace, therefore, must meet the cost of purchasing those homes and rehousing any displaced tenants, including moving costs and compensation of at least £6,000 each, and also by funding the construction of six equivalent four-bedroom houses elsewhere. These must be located as close to the current site as is reasonably possible.

Until the NNLD scheme has received planning permission, work on the stadium cannot start. The affected residents say their lives are “on hold”.

Ashia Choudhury, who lives with her husband and two children, aged 21 and 10, on Wooderson Close, tells The Athletic: “I’m fed up with waiting. They told us to move four years ago, got my stuff packed, and then they couldn’t find us a place. We’ve been sitting here in boxes.

“The replacement properties are supposed to be like-for-like but the one they showed us was smaller than this one, so I refused it. We’ve been stuck here. The council says they’re going to show us houses and then they don’t show us. It’s frustrating. It’s a disappointment because your life is on hold. I’ve had to move my younger child to a different school.”

Another set of Wooderson Close residents, who have lived there for over 20 years, tell The Athletic: “In the beginning, we were not happy but when we thought they had decided what to do, we just wanted the same-sized house. It is all very confusing. We are getting old and we can’t do anything.” They added they’d had no contact from the club or the council since last year, and cannot plan for the future because of the uncertainty.

Among other terms of the S106, the club is required to spend:

  • £46,270 on improvements for pedestrians on the routes from the three railway stations in the area — Selhurst, Thornton Heath and Norwood Junction — and on bus shelters for Whitehorse Lane
  • £15,000 on the development of management plans for those stations
  • £100,000 on improving cycle routes to the stadium
  • £10,000 towards developing the brief and establishing the scope of the “masterplan” for the regeneration of the wider area
  • £100,000 on measures to encourage the use of sustainable forms of transport and reduce reliance on cars for travel to and from the stadium.

Although there is understood to be a firm commitment to the redevelopment of Selhurst Park, matters may be complicated in the event David Blitzer and Josh Harris, two of the four general partners who own Palace between them, are successful in their consortium’s bid to buy fellow Premier League club Chelsea.

The redevelopment of the stadium has already cost Palace over £1 million in preparation work but the project is considered crucial to securing a more sustainable long-term future for the club by increasing revenue.

Palace have been approached for comment.

(Top photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

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