Arsenal led the way, West Ham have moved into their new home, and the work has begun on Tottenham's new stadium. But, nine months on from the unveiling of grand plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge as a 21st Century home for Chelsea, things have all gone a bit quiet.

Original timescales suggested that, by now, work would be underway to deck-over the main line railway that runs to the east side of the site. But, a quick gaze along the track from the Fulham Road bridge after which the stadium is named reveals not a crane, and no signs of hard labour.

Premier League
Luiz floored Ceballos during fight at Arsenal training ground - report
19/11/2020 AT 17:06

The project plan first revealed late last year contained ambitious targets – even by the admission of those involved in the plans. And the expected slippage seems to be upon us.

The initial aim, that 2016-17 should be Chelsea's last season at Stamford Bridge as we know it, has been overtaken by events. Nothing can happen until Hammersmith and Fulham Council permits the development, and they seem to be a fair way off bringing it before committee. So why the hold-up?

Well, it is very big planning application. Both council and club (or, to be more accurate, club owner – this is Roman Abramovch's personal baby) want to be sure everything is done by the book, and no stone is left unturned. That minimises the risk of planning permission being granted, the whole thing going to appeal, and objectors halting a scheme on which millions has already been spent.

There is a pause in events at the moment with the arrival of August – and the almost complete shutdown of local government committee business. But things will start moving again once September comes, and present estimates are for a decision on the matter either late this year, or very early in 2017.

Aside from the annual Town Hall lull, one of the big sticking points appears to be a planning legal matter which dogs any major development – the Section 106 agreement. Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 invokes a mechanism whereby an otherwise unacceptable development can be made acceptable by the addition of sweeteners to the deal.

A typical example might be the building of a big new housing estate, plans for which are made more palatable for the council and local objectors by an agreement by the developer to pay for the building of a school. If that sounds like a form of bung, then it is – a totally legal and above board one, which is a regular part of any major development.

It is understood there are prolonged discussions going on at present, between the parties, to establish the main objections the redevelopment may face, and what safeguards and community benefits might be put in place to enable the smooth conveyance of the plan towards reality.

Essentially, the present planning regime in the UK means that the power has shifted away from the local objector, towards the developer; and it is in the interests of all parties to get a workable plan on the table before a decision is taken – otherwise the only winners tend to be the lawyers.

Section 106 agreements have acquired a poor reputation in recent years, owing to that shift in legal power towards the developer. On many big London developments, things have been promised to councils to obtain planning permission, only for later appeals to have these restrictions removed years after the thing was built.

This has led to the accusation that the present planning rules let developers have their cake and eat it.

But there is an interesting technicality when it comes to Stamford Bridge: because any Section 106 agreement needs also to be signed-off by the land owner; which in this case is, partially, the fan-owned Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO).

The issue of the freehold, which CPO owns, still rattles-on in the background here with the club seemingly taking the stance that they don't want or need it; but all informed observers at the very least expecting them to attempt to get it.

But, for the time being, Abramovich needs to keep CPO sweet if he wants them to sign-off one of the most contentious parts of his plan for the ground.

With CPO in recent years increasing its community focus, in the interests of being a good neighbour to those in SW6, there is a real chance they could find themselves effectively policing whatever the Section 106 agreement says: to ensure the local area gets the improvements the club agrees to at planning committee.

All of this is complicated business, and there are clearly wheels within wheels here. Getting the right deal to suit everyone will take time, but the additional safeguards in Chelsea's unique club model should ensure that fans have more of a say in their new stadium here, than they have had at any other club in the UK.

And back to that original issue of 'when?' This will not be Chelsea's final season at the existing Stamford Bridge. At the moment, there seems to be some debate over whether the next one will be either.

But, within three years, the ball may finally get rolling on what remains London's most interesting and exciting new stadium development for generations.

Premier League
Havertz returns to Chelsea training after positive Covid-19 test
19/11/2020 AT 16:33
Premier League
Newcastle United confirm legal dispute with Premier League over failed Saudi takeover
19/11/2020 AT 15:40