Further to the initial announcement, the Trust was pleased to attend the 'open days' held at Craven Cottage in late October. As the Trust grew from the 'Back to the Cottage' movement, we are delighted that the club are actively considering proposals to make a permanent stay at our historic home a reality. We would welcome any feedback from members on the club's proposals. Although the exhibition's displays were well illustrated with plenty of photographs and a drawing of the current structure of the ground, those hoping for detailed plans of what a redeveloped Riverside Stand would look like would have been disappointed.
According to club officials, the open days were held to facilitate feedback from supporters as to what they would prioritise in an enlarged Riverside Stand, with the starting point of increasing the capacity to the stated 30,000 and an upgrading of the existing facilities. Each attendee was given a questionnaire which asked for their comments and ideas.
The club presented both the positives and the negatives of the proposed expansion: stating that the increased capacity would bring additional revenue from increased attendance, but may also necessitate expansion into the River Thames. A very rough sketch of potential riverside frontage was available and, after discussion with representatives from the club, it was clear that the redevelopment could be completed during the close season and avoiding the closure of the stand for any prolonged period.
Crucial to the plans was the re-opening of the Thames path for use on non match days, which featured in the club's last set of redevelopment proposals back in 2007. It would appear likely that an increased number of supporters attending the ground would place greater pressure on current facilities for egress onto Stevenage Road and could result in concomitant damage to the banks of Fielder's Meadow at the Putney End. As well as the obvious fire and safety issues presented by larger attendances, it is both rational and practical to augment and improve egress from the ground at both ends.
With reference to the Putney End, a combined programme of re-opening the Thames Path - and bringing it the same level as that of the Riverside Stand, with appropriate modification for wheelchair and disabled access, the creation of a 'spillway' to avoid any serious damage to Bishop's Park and major improvements to the 'Putney Wall,' which is non-uniform in construction and would require additional support, and appropriate horticultural development in the surrounding areas would present the Club with an opportunity to follow through on their previous offer to support much-needed improvements in Bishop's Park as well as simultaneously fulfilling their own desire for much-needed expansion.
The Trust notes that, in their recent statement on the future of Chelsea Football Club in the borough, Hammersmith and Fulham Council said: "We are currently assisting Fulham FC with its plans to expand the capacity of its historic ground at Craven Cottage and we have already agreed to grant planning permission for additional capacity. A new scheme is about to be consulted on."
The Council's support is welcome and will be crucial to ensuring that these proposals are not mired in the wrangling with local residents that has hindered the Club's previous attempts to expand Craven Cottage. The Trust will be working with all relevant bodies to ensure that the permanent expansion of Craven Cottage is a success. Trust members are encouraged to view the Club's presentation of the plans on the Fulham website at: http://www.fulhamfc.com/StadiumProject/FulhamForever.aspx