Fulham hit snag over move to the Bridge

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Fulham's plan to groundshare with Chelsea next season appeared to have stalled yesterday after the local council revealed it would take up to six months to consider overturning a planning rule which bans the move.

Fulham's plan to groundshare with Chelsea next season appeared to have stalled yesterday after the local council revealed it would take up to six months to consider overturning a planning rule which bans the move.

The Cottagers, tenants at Queen's Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground this season, insisted yesterday that there was "a good chance of getting a groundshare and we're aiming for next season". But the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham effectively ended the hopes of the Fulham chairman, Mohamed al Fayed, of clinching a deal with his club's west London neighbours in time for the start of next season.

The council's key ruling stems from Chelsea's long battle to gain planning permission for their West Stand. Ken Bates, the Blues' chairman, finally obtained permission to build the Chelsea Village complex after a public inquiry and appeal. But, as part of the November 1999 council decision to grant planning permission, a clause was inserted which ruled that only Chelsea could play at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have yet to even lodge an appeal to overturn the rule and, even if they do so in the immediate future, it is expected it would not be considered until August.

"We haven't yet received a planning application concerning Fulham and the planning rule is that Stamford Bridge is just for Chelsea," Kevin Batt, the press officer for Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said. "That rule was a condition of the deal allowing the West Stand to be built in 1999. If Chelsea want to change or waive the rule, they would need to put in a planning application. We would then consult local residents, a process which could take up to six months."

Residents are almost certain to be opposed to Fulham moving in as it would double the amount of games at the stadium. Fulham now seem likely to take up the option of a second season at QPR.

Fulham, who have provisionally sold their Craven Cottage home to housing developers for a reported £50m, have until 1 March to commit to Loftus Road.

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