Wednesday 28 August 2013

Secretary of State not calling in Earl's Court

It is of little surprise to hear that the Secretary of State will not be calling in the Earl's Court development; so politically dynamite is this project, it is hardly conscionable that he would jeopardise it. The SoS has several criteria to consider when deciding if he will call in a development for his personal decision. They are quite clear and in making his decision, the SoS is saying that the criteria are not met.  Activists have been circulating refutations of that opinion and we reproduce them below. The criteria are in bold and the arguments against the SoS's decision are below each.

Do not involve a conflict with national policies on important matters 

"The proposals obviously conflict with national policies for the Big Society and Localism because they involve dictating the future of the local community against its wishes. The Prime Minister and his minister have repeatedly claimed they are giving power to the people, to local communities, to decide the future of their neighbourhoods. The importance of these policies is reflected in the many statements from the Secretary of State and other Ministers. The Prime Minister has personally championed these policies, claiming this is something he is "passionate" about. 

This conflict with national policy on this important matter has been reported in the national press, with dozens of articles in the Guardian and in the national media, including national television, and hundreds and thousands of media articles. For example, on 12 January 2011 the Financial Times ran a story with the headlines: "Regeneration row. West London project runs into difficulties. 'Big Society' threat to Earl's Court Scheme"."

Do not have significant long term impact on economic growth and meeting housing needs across a wider area than a single authority 

"The loss of the Earl's Court Exhibition Centres would have a significant long term impact on economic growth across many local authorities and more widely given their major role in UK and world trade. The Secretary of State is not qualified to opine otherwise since no economic assessment of their loss was made.

There is a significant impact on meeting housing needs across the wider area, which is caused by failing to take advantage of this development opportunity to maximise the amount of additional affordable housing prescribed by policy. "

Do not have significant effects beyond their immediate locality

"The destruction of the Exhibition Centres has significant effects across London and throughout the UK (more on this from AEO below) as it leads to loss of business for hundreds of UK companies and in some case closure of businesses or cessation of Earl's Court related operations, which is obviously an effect beyond its immediate locality.

The Centres generate at least £1 billion a year for the UK economy and play a major role in UK and international trade that would be lost and not replaced. 

The relocation of the Lillie Bridge rail depot, which is the premier servicing facility for London Underground would be forced away from it central location, most likely to Ruislip. This would have a significant effect on the safe and efficient running of the Underground across the whole of London, which is obviously an effect beyond its immediate locality."

Do not give rise to substantial cross boundary or national controversy 

"On 23 August, 2013, Planning Magazine, the trade press for the planning profession reported the Secretary of State's decision with the headline: "No call in for controversial Earls Court scheme", The first word of the first sentence of the article is "Controversial".

On 24 August 2013 the BBC reported the SoS's decision not to call in. 

It is quite apparent from reading just a few of the hundreds of media articles, and journalists have said so, that the scheme has given rise to cross-boundary and national controversy." 

Do not raise significant architectural and urban design issues

"Sir Terry Farrell would be surprised to hear that his scheme does not raise any significant architectural and urban design issues. The masterplan refers to a "unique opportunity" for "this extraordinary site" and lauds the masterplanner's "visionary approach" for "an innovative and vibrant new district that is a beacon for sustainable living" that "introduces a new metropolitan 'front door' to the capital".

 In a Hammersmith & Fulham council press release dated 23 August 2013, developer Gary Yardley said: "The Masterplan will create a remarkable new district for London".

 At £8 billion, the Earl's Court redevelopment is claimed to be the largest in the world outside of China. It involves the demolition of 760 decent homes, the EC Exhibition Centres and the rail depot so as to build 7,000, 80% of which would be unaffordable. It will involve the construction of several tower blocks up to 30 storeys high and over 4,000 car parking spaces.

 "As the written ministerial statement of 10 May 2013 makes clear, the Government wants to see a focus on refurbishment and improvement of rundown or vacant properties rather their demolition.  We would expect, in line with George Clarke's ten point plan, landlords to consider options to upgrade and refurbish existing homes, in consultation with tenants, prior to considering demolition." (Consultation on the Housing Transfer Manual 23 July 2013)

 Ministerial Statement 10 May 2013 Empty Homes. Mark Prisk: "As part of this commitment, we have explicitly rejected the last Administration's top-down, large-scale Whitehall targets for demolition and clearance. The obsession with demolition over refurbishment was both economically and environmentally wasteful, as well as involving significant damage of our nation's heritage."

Do not involve the interests of national security or of foreign governments

It likely will involve foreign governments given how much new development in inner London has been purchased by sovereign wealth funds, especially from Middle Eastern countries."


As background, this is what ECO say about themselves;

"Earls Court One and Two together have a total 60,000 square metres of event space and add to these facilities the purpose-built conference centre and the Museum Hall party space can boast a venue and a space for every event.

Over the years, the venues have welcomed visitors to shows such as the London Boat Show, the British Motor Show, the Ideal Home Show, the London Book Fair, the Great British Beer Festival and the Good Food Show. 

The halls have resounded to performances by world-famous artists such as Madonna, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, George Michael, Elton John, Kylie, Rod Stewart, Queen and the Rolling Stones. 

We've hosted the BRIT Awards, and sporting events such as boxing and wrestling contests, and some of the country's largest companies have held conferences, training sessions and massive staff parties in our venues. 

As the ultimate accolade, Earls Court  was selected to be a London 2012 Olympic venue – chosen, according to Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, for its west London location and excellent transport links.

All of this puts Earls Court at the heart of the communities in which they operate, as the 1.5 million visitors, 15,000 exhibiting companies and 300 events that we cater for every year have a sizeable economic impact – in terms of jobs and expenditure. 

A study carried out on behalf of Earls Court and sister venue Olympia London, showed that the two venues together supported £258m of expenditure in their boroughs and over £1.25bn in the London region, and accounted for (directly and indirectly) over 1,000 jobs in the boroughs and around 12,500 in London.

The study also showed that one in two Londoners visits the venues every year."

And this is what the Association of Event Organisers say about the SoS's decision that the development has no impact on economic performance

"The reason for the purported 'decline' of this hugely important venue is that Capital & Counties purchased the site with the sole aim of redevelopment and set about doing as little as possible to refurbish/update the facilities. The reason for their desire to redevelop is that the land value currently stands at approx. £10 million per acre, whilst residential would increase that to £25 million per acre.
The developers are doing their business BUT it is the responsibility of local and national government to look beyond the profit generation of property companies and recognise the impact on our industry which generates in excess of £11 billion per year in net expenditure.
The notion that all Earls Court based events can simply move to Olympia or ExCeL is simply ludicrous – this is not just a question of square metres. It must be understood that there are only 52 weeks in a year and venue cannot host similarly-themed events within 3-months of each other.
As a further thought, the business that is stimulated through the platform of these events runs into the £100 billions – consumer spend at the last Ideal Home Show was £741 per capita. With 270,000 visitors that equates to over £200,000,000!! If we look at Farnborough Air Show achieving circa £49 billion of contracts signed, it is a simple deduction that the entire event industry figure is easily in the £100 billions, and most importantly that Earls Court will be responsible for a large percentage of that business.
Karim Halwagi
Chief Executive Officer
Association of Event Organisers Ltd"

It is worth noting that Chelsea's submission to the Seagrave Road planning application was very clear about maintaining a major exhibition space at EC...

Anyway, plenty to consider.....


  1. Is there any chance of getting a new stadium at BPS now or has that chance gone?