Fulham plans rejected

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The Independent Online

Fulham have had plans to build a new stadium complex in Shepherd's Bush, west London, rejected. The scheme, incorporating shops and hotels, was to have been modelled along the lines of Chelsea Village.

Fulham have had plans to build a new stadium complex in Shepherd's Bush, west London, rejected. The scheme, incorporating shops and hotels, was to have been modelled along the lines of Chelsea Village.

The Fulham chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, infuriated by a residents' legal battle which has stalled the £70m redevelopment of Craven Cottage for two years, is searching for alternative locations for a ground with a capacity up to 40,000.

While Fulham's official line is that they are still committed to redeveloping Craven Cottage, it was reported yesterday that Fayed was seriously considering moving the club to Osterley, on the edge of London near Heathrow airport, following the collapse of the Shepherd's Bush scheme.

Fayed already owns a sizeable tract of land in Osterley where there is a warehouse for his Harrods business, but any such move would certainly enrage Fuham supporters, who are committed to the club remaining close to its roots in inner London.

Fulham sources said the club examined the site last year, but immediately ruled it out as it is too small and too far from Craven Cottage. However, the fact Fayed already owns the site, and therefore does not have to embark on a lengthy buying process, could yet lead to a change of heart.

In July, Fulham made a failed bid for a derelict site in Shepherd's Bush, just by Queen's Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground, which they are sharing for two seasons.

The preferred bidder for the site was the property developer, Helical Bar & Morley Fund Management. Three weeks ago, Fulham held talks with the London-based group over teaming up to build a state-of-the-art stadium. Sources close to the discussions disclosed that the level of Fulham's potential investment meant they were considering a complex similar to Chelsea's Village, which features a hotel, bars and restaurants.

Matthew Bonning-Snook, the Helical Bar development executive, said: "Fulham approached us to work with them to develop a stadium – but it wouldn't work financially for us, so we're no longer in discussions with them. There are a large number of alternative uses which would be more valuable, including housing or offices."

Chester Stern, Fulham's controller of public affairs, said: "Our preferred option remains Craven Cottage, although we have looked at one or two sites as a fall-back position.

"And if we can't go back to Craven Cottage, we want to stay in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham."

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