We’ll oppose Charlton Athletic leaving Greenwich, council leader says as EFL warns club

The Valley
The Valley is owned by Roland Duchâtelet, but the club is not

Greenwich Council says it will oppose any attempt to move Charlton Athletic out of the borough as the club’s future hangs in the balance following its relegation from the Championship last week.

Supporters had rejoiced last October when the Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet sold the club after five turbulent years to a group called East Street Investments (ESI). But promises that the new owners would invest in the side were not followed through – wrecking hopes it would stay in football’s second tier – and ESI collapsed into acrimony last March, with leading figures Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer trading insults on social media.

To make matters worse, Duchâtelet – apparently attempting to recoup the millions he lost during his time in charge – has held onto The Valley and the club’s training ground at Sparrows Lane in New Eltham. Last month, the club claimed ESI had been sold to Manchester-based businessman Paul Elliott, but that deal has yet to be ratified by the English Football League.

Tonight, the EFL confirmed it had not received sufficient information to approve the takeover. “The club is aware of the consequences of not meeting those requirements,” the EFL said, effectively warning Elliott and his lawyer Chris Farnell, who sits on the ESI board, that the club risks expulsion from the league.

Last year, a similar situation led to Bury being expelled from the league. Farnell was also Bury’s lawyer. The Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust has warned the club could be thrown out of the league in less than seven weeks.

Last week, the Eltham MP Clive Efford told the House of Commons that the situation was “undermining the future of the club”. Both he and the Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook have written to the EFL to demand action.

Supporters fear The Valley could be redeveloped, but Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has told The Charlton Champion the authority wants to see the club remain.

“Generations of Greenwich residents have supported Charlton Athletic and they would have been devastated by their relegation last week. The council has very close ties to the club, especially its Community Trust which has worked with us to coordinate over 1,000 volunteers to deliver food and other vital support to residents during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“I wrote to Mr Duchâtelet two years ago when there were protests about his ownership and had hoped that winning promotion last year and new ownership would bring about some stability to the club. Sadly that hasn’t happened, and relegation could make things even worse.

“The stadium and training ground sites are designated for specific uses and we would not be interested in any proposals that involved a change of use. Charlton Athletic belongs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and we will oppose anything that could lead to them being moved out of the borough.”

While The Valley is generally thought to be a difficult site to build on – a large sewer runs underneath it and road access is limited – fans have feared development proposals for many years. Duchâtelet’s predecessors as owners, Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, had explored the idea of moving to Greenwich Peninsula and striking a deal to have The Valley used for social housing, a court case in 2017 revealed.

Further back, a separation in the ownership of club and ground led to Charlton leaving The Valley in 1985 for Crystal Palace’s ground at Selhurst Park, leading to a damaging seven-year exile from the area. Greenwich planning policies designate it as “community open space”.

However, there is also concern at Woolwich Town Hall about the fate of Sparrows Lane. While it is designated as Metropolitan Open Land – giving it one of the strongest protections against development – councillors fear a planning inspector could still allow building there.

A Premier League side as recently as 2007, Charlton were relegated back to League One last week after a 4-0 defeat at league champions Leeds United. Fans fear the relegation and off-field drama will lead to the departure of manager Lee Bowyer as well as several key players.

The club said tonight: “Getting the change of ownership approved is the top priority of everyone at the club and there is no delay on the part of the club.

“The club will be in touch with the league on Tuesday morning with aim of getting this process concluded.”


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Leeds United 4-0 Charlton Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

And that’s that – the Addicks were relegated last night after one tumultuous season back on the Championship. KEVIN NOLAN reports on a devastating evening for Charlton Athletic.

As their own demolition by champions Leeds United became irrelevant on Wednesday evening, Charlton were left clinging to hope that favourable results elsewhere would spare them the drop to League One. And with the minutes ticking away at Elland Road, where their hosts effortlessly outclassed them, the yearned-for news arrived that Fulham had equalised at Wigan and Brentford had done likewise at home to Barnsley.

All too briefly -and cruelly as it turned out – it seemed the Addicks were safe, at least until Wigan’s appeal against a 12-point deduction comes up before the beaks on July 31st. But there was, needless to say, one last convulsion left in this exhausting slog of a season and it meant that Charlton had finally run out of wriggle room. Barnsley had leapfrogged them by grabbing an added-time winner at Griffin Park, and it’s the Tykes, not the Addicks, who will be anxiously monitoring the EFL’s handling of Wigan’s apparently frivolous appeal next week.

Charlton had, technically if not realistically, kicked off in Yorkshire with their fate in their own hands. Even a draw with hosts, who they hoped might be more interested in partying, would probably suffice. As soon became clear, there was little chance of any such slip in standards under the meticulous stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa. After clinching the title, United had already shown steely resolve by brushing aside Derby County; dismissing puny Charlton was a mere afterthought.

The fateful evening hadn’t started too badly. With nothing tangible at stake for themselves, Blackburn Rovers took an early lead at Luton but promptly remembered their place. Two own goals and a penalty duly restored order and extricated the Hatters from the unpleasant unseemliness beneath them. It was now briefly reduced to a three-cornered fight to survive between Charlton, Wigan and Barnsley, though only two of the trio could summon up any real appetite for the fight.

At Elland Road, the Addicks stood no chance. A stunning volley from Ben White began their slide and Stuart Dallas’ cute finish from Pablo Hernandez’s inspired set-up ended their interest in the contest before the half-hour mark. Alfie Doughty should have reduced the arrears when sent clear by Aiden McGeady’s solitary contribution to the proceedings but shot weakly wide. United completed the rout with two more second half goals from Tyler Roberts and Jamie Shackleton leaving Charlton’s fate in the hands of others… the unreliable hands of Brentford as it turned out.

Bitterly disappointed boss Lee Bowyer confesssed: “I’m not in a good place at the moment. We should have enough points to easily keep us in the division, that’s what hurts me.” A brief recap of the nine-game shoot-out which condemned his side bears out the truth of his claim.

Resuming post-lockdown two points from safety, the Addicks knocked off the deficit with 1-0 victories over Hull and QPR; when they followed those encouraging results with a well-organised goalless draw at promotion hopefuls Cardiff City, they seemed on course to steer clear of the relegation rocks. Then up stepped Millwall.

For nearly 80 minutes, another useful point seemed on offer until Charlton’s baleful nemesis did what they have done regularly over many painful years. Yet again they scrambled a late winner, a sickener to which Brentford added three days laterby coming from behind to overcome heroic resistance and win 2-1 in the closing stages.

If those reverses weren’t damaging enough, the 1-0 defeat by “nothing to play for” Reading piled on the misery. In that benighted game, Charlton reversed the trend and conceded the winner by conceding a completely unnecessary penalty as early as the second minute.

But it was the added time equaliser grabbed by Birmingham City which can be identified as the goal which sent the Addicks down. It was made by 17-year-old substitute Jude Bellingham who, despite being on the brink of a multi-million pound move to Germany, had the old-fashioned character to risk injury and help his club in their fight against relegation. Way to go, kid, you could teach our bloke, who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, a thing or two about being a responsible adult.

A stirring 2-2 draw with beleaguered Wigan, which featured a belated leveller of their own by Macauley Bonne, set up the heartbreak of Elland Road. But although Charlton gave it their best shot, they simply weren’t good enough – or lucky enough – either on the night or through much of a switchback season.

A crippling injury list eroded the bright start before backroom villainy brought the club to its knees. The pusillanimous defection of their star striker applied the coup-de-grace to a turbulent, troubled campaign and Charlton are once again a League One team. And ain’t that a dog of a league to climb out of? See you next season anyway.

Leeds: Meslier, Cooper, Ayling, White, Struijk, Hernandez (Shackleton 61), Dallas, Harrison (Stevens 72), Alioski (Poveda 61), Klich (Bogusz 72), Bamford (Roberts 46). Not used: Miszek, Douglas, Davis, Casey.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce (Morgan 46), Sarr, Doughty, Cullen, Field, McGeady (Williams 46), Davison (Aneke 46), Bonne (Green 78). Not used: Amos, Purrington, Oshilaja, Lapslie, Hemed.


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Have your say on controversial Pocket Living plans for 48 ‘compact flats’ on The Heights

The Heights development
The blocks would sit behind two-storey homes on The Heights

Controversial plans to build homes little bigger than studio flats on Greenwich Council land at The Heights have been submitted to town hall planners.

Pocket Living plans to build 48 flats on land currently used for car parking space. It specialises in building “compact flats” – 40 of the planned homes will be one-bedroom apartments of just 39 square metres, designed for one person to live in. Planning guidance gives the minimum size for a studio flat as 37 square metres. All 48 homes will have shared living rooms and kitchens.

Pocket Living Lewisham development
This Pocket development at Marischal Road, Lewisham, was completed in 2016

The flats are designed for first-time buyers, and would be sold at 20 per cent off market rates to Greenwich borough residents – meaning they qualify as “affordable” housing. Pocket developments have already appeared in Lewisham and New Cross, but this is the company’s first scheme in Greenwich borough.

Two linked blocks of four and five storeys are planned for the site, overlooking The Valley, with two car parking spaces for residents – 21 spaces for existing residents will be relocated. The blocks will be next to the two-storey homes of The Heights estate.

Greenwich Council had hoped to sell three plots of land to Pocket, investing the proceeds in new council housing elsewhere. But proposals to sell land off Lewisham Road and Kidbrooke Park Road were abandoned after protests from residents and Labour councillors. Of 41 Labour councillors in post at the time, 12 attended a protest meeting at Charlton House. Many were angry that the council was not developing the land itself or handing the site to Meridian Home Start, its spin-off housing company.

However, plans for The Heights, which sits on contaminated land that Pocket will have to clean up before it starts work, have continued.

Pocket Living render
The flats would overlook The Valley

The company is financially supported by Sadiq Khan’s administration at City Hall, while former Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford sits on the board of the company. A viability assessment submitted with the proposal shows that the company can expect to make a 17.5 per cent profit on the scheme.

Residents have until 19 August to have their say on the proposals on the Greenwich Council website (or search for reference 20/1967/F)


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