Mr justice Collins today rejected High Court moves in London in which 11 campaigners calling themselves the Fulham Alliance had asked the court to order the government to reconsider John Prescott's decision not to 'call in' the planning application to be decided by him, rather than leaving it to the local council.
They claim the decision over the stadium is too important to be left to the local authority and should be decided by the new minister in charge for planning, the secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions.
However, in his ruling this morning the judge rejected their challenge. The protestors had, among other things, argued that the secretary of state had failed in deciding not to 'call in' the matter, to take into account whether the decision of the council itself had breached Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
But the judge said: 'I am satisfied that the secretary of state has no duty to consider whether the procedures would be compliant with Article 6 in deciding whether or not to 'call in.'
If the protestors had succeeded they had also sought a court order blocking the Hammersmith and Fulham LBC, which has already resolved to grant planning permission for the Premiership club's new stadium, from granting full permission until there has been a government decision. The club is hoping to have the stadium in place for the start of the 2003-2004 season.
Robert McCracken, counsel for the protestors, told the court at the hearing in November that the protestors were worried about the 'damaging and massively intrusive effect' that the new 30,000-seat stadium on the site of Fulham FC's current 105-year-old stadium, Craven Cottage, would have on traffic and car parking in the area, and on the River Thames.
He said that, in 1995, the then-relevant minister called in applications for a new 15,000-seat stadium on the site, but that after the Hammersmith and Fulham LBC resolved in principle to grant permission for the 30,000-seat stadium in February this year, Mr Prescott refused to call in this new application.
Mr McCracken claimed that in doing this and refusing to give reasons the minister had acted 'unreasonably and unlawfully', and had failed to address the concerns raised by the Fulham Alliance.
However, Timothy Straker QC added, for Fulham argued: 'Re-development of its present dilapidated stadium is a matter of importance, both because of the financial implications but also because of the desire that Fulham FC should continue to play in its historic ground, to which it has been tied since 1896.'
The 11 members of the Fulham Alliance are William Adlard, Dido Berkeley, Lindsey Carlos-Clarke, Jenny Dearden, Dr Matt Dunckley, Susanna Majendie, Paul Mitchell, John Shannon, Roger Weston, Shiela Monaghan and Christopher Edwards.