• Kevin Murphy

London: Earls Court Row Heats Up

The £12 billion regeneration of the demolished Earls Court Exhibition Centre is now in a battle between the Hammersmith & Fulham council and property firm Capco. The council is reportedly 'considering' a compulsory purchase order over the land being developed. The Evening Standard is reporting that Capital and Counties Properties (Capco) plans on developing “four urban villages and a high street” between North End Road and Warwick Road. The council is now demanding that Capco give back the two former council of Gibbs Green and West Kensington that were sold to Capco in 2012. It is also being reported that Capco last November was working to sell a large portion of its Earls Court holding to a billionaire in Hong Kong.

The plans originally by Sir Terry Farrell are to construct 7,500 new homes with 1,500 being set aside as affordable. The Lillie Square portion of the plan has already had hundreds of homes built.

The Hammersmith & Fulham council would have the ability to buy the private Earls Court stake as rules allow a state body can buy private land without consent of the owner.

In a statement:

“The purchase would both accelerate the delivery of homes and let the council increase the number of affordable homes. Only a few hundred of the 7,500 consented new homes have been delivered across the Earl’s Court Opportunity Area since 2013.”

Hammersmith & Fulham Councillor Andrew Jones in the ES:

“There is a huge demand for homes, and we’re determined to help build these.”

The Exhibition Centre is owned by ECPL in a joint venture between Transport for London (Tfl) and Capco.

Pink Floyd performing at Earls Court, London 1994 (flickr.com)

In Other News...

In another event a community group in Earls Court is begging Tony Pidgley of developer Berkeley to buy the re-development site at Earls Court in a news report by Radius Data Exchange.

It is reported that Jonathan Rosenberg, chair of Walterton & Elgin Community Homes contacted Pidgley in purchasing the estates for the sake of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green residents who have been trying to preserve the community. Speaking at a Creating Communities gathering by Create Streets and Onward Rosenberg is asking both Homes England and property developer Berkeley to buy the site with the community managing it.

Mr. Rosenberg says:

“I wonder whether there might be a commitment from Sir Edward [Lister] for Homes England to buy that site, or indeed for Tony [Pidgley] to give a commitment that if he bought he he would ensure that those two council estates are actually handed over to the community for them to be in charge?”

Sir Edward Lister said:

“London is responsible for housing, the Homes England role is now at City Hall. It’s a question you have to direct to them. The only thing that Homes England does in London is some loans, but they are donevery much in conjunction with City Hall.”

Mr. Pidgley responded:

“I’ve said the same thing for 20 years, and it comes down to the same thing. It is about people, it’sabout focusing on people, it’s always been about people."

“We as a group have always gone to the people first, we don’t talk to the politicians first, we talk to the people first.”

“The people run, they care about it, they meet each other and talk about it. They make friends of all ages andget the violence off the street. You can apply that to mixed-use wherever you want to go.”

Mr. Pidgley added:

“What is the job of government? Get rid of the ruddy bureaucracy.”

A New Green Venue?

Commenting in the Conference News Martin Fullard says of the Earls Court project when visiting the site in January:

"What, I wondered, would I see? The art deco Earl’s Court 1 and its late 20th Century sister Earl’s Court 2 were both demolished in 2014, and today the site is nothing but wasteland, save for the railway line."

"The plans for the Earl’s Court site indicate that it is to be, in essence, a “new community” of “thousands” of residential and retail units. It’s a bit strange because a community exists already, albeit a battle-scarred one."

"Once upon a time he had delegates filling his rooms nightly: it’s no longer that way. And nor are the shops in the area. Pop-up merchants and pubs operate on short leases, so they can be moved on at a moment’s notice. It’s a bitter irony that these business tumbleweeds sit opposite Brompton Cemetery: a metaphor indeed."

And while Mr. Fullard acknowledges the need for more housing and for the need of a dual development combing housing and events spaces.

In November of 2018 a local resident Bella Hardwick presented to City Hall a local petition with 1,250 signatures calling for the “world’s greenest venue” to be built on the site of the Earls Court Masterplan. The Local Authority and the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) has supported the plan.

Assembly member and chair of the London Assembly’s Environment Committee Caroline Russell of the Green Party says:

“The tragedy of Earl’s Court has been that the focus of the whole community, the exhibition centre, was ripped down without a good alternative ready to take its place at the heart of the local economy. The Earl’s Court campaigners have come up with a creative, thoughtful solution and the Mayor should listen to them.

“Earl’s Court needs a development that not only takes into account the urgency to address climate change but will also meet the needs of Londoners and help support the local businesses that have lost so much through the demolition of the exhibition centre.”

The petition urges the Mayor of London:

“To support the building of the world’s greenest venue on the site of the Earls Court Masterplan. An international architecture competition should be launched to design a multi-purpose, green venue featuring exhibitions, music, cultural and sporting events. Tendering and procurement processes should be open and transparent with materials sourced in an environmentally, socially just and sustainable way.”

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