Residents Challenge Arsenal's Ground Move in Court

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ARSENAL'S PLANS for a new 60,000-seat stadium faced the start of an important legal challenge in the High Court yesterday from an alliance of local residents' groups concerned about the environmental and social impact of the massive development.

A judge was asked to quash and declare unlawful planning permissions granted by Islington Borough Council for the Ashburton Grove stadium plus 14-storey tower blocks, housing, restaurants, offices, a casino and new road junctions for the 60-acre site. The court challenge was being heard as a matter of urgency because Arsenal want to start clearing the site, currently an industrial estate, this summer.

Mr Justice Ouseley was shown written evidence from one resident who spoke of his fears that the increased number of fans leaving the new stadium after matches would increase the incidence of noise, damage to property, violence and drunken behaviour, leaving residents unable to move freely.

The Islington Stadium Communities Alliance claims that environmental studies carried out by Arsenal as part of the planning application were inadequate and that the human rights of residents seeking a public inquiry were breached.

The legally-aided case has been brought by two residents, and is being contested by the council and Arsenal, which says it has been in Islington for nearly 100 years and wants to stay. It insists its plan will regenerate the Ashburton Grove area. The hearing is expected to conclude tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Southampton have placed the Ecuador striker Agustin Delgado on the transfer list for "breach of his contractual obligations to the club". Delgado was instructed to return on 9 July so the club's medical team could assess his injured knee prior to pre-season training. However, Delgado has refused to return from Ecuador until early next month despite being fined two weeks' wages for missing the start of pre-season training.

The Liverpool midfielder Vladimir Smicer has agreed a two-year extension to his contract at Anfield. The Czech was offered the new deal earlier in the summer and is now ready to put pen to paper after talks with the manager Gerard Houllier. Smicer had one year left on his existing deal.

Blackburn Rovers remain hopeful of signing Dwight Yorke from Manchester United - but have warned they will switch to another target if a deal is not done soon. …