The Mayor of London is coming under increasing pressure to reject proposals that would see the world renowned Earls Court exhibition centres demolished and thousand of jobs lost. The centres, opened in 1937, currently contribute £1 billion a year to the local economy and bring 2.5 million visitors and 30,000 exhibitors to West London.
The controversial £8billion redevelopment was approved by Kensington and Chelsea’s Planning Committee two weeks ago. In his role as London’s planning authority the next step is for the Mayor to decide whether to support or reject these proposals. As Chair of Transport for London, the Mayor is also the landowner of the site.
Earls Court is a cornerstone of the UK’s exhibition industry. The sector employs 76,300 people across the country and generated £11bn in spending in 2011. But there remains huge potential to grow this sector in the UK, with only 5% of Europe’s indoor exhibition space in the UK. This compares poorly with continental rivals such as Germany (which has 22%), Italy (14%) and France (13%).
Numerous organisations and individuals wrote to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles MP, in September asking him to call in the applications and decide to future of the exhibition centres himself. These include the Association of Event Organisers, local residents groups, local Member of Parliament Andy Slaughter and London Assembly Planning Spokesperson Nicky Gavron.
The Secretary of State has yet to decide whether to call in the proposals.
The proposals have generated strong opposition from the exhibition industry and local community. In addition to the loss of much needed exhibition space, the plans will see seven hundred homes demolished and break up a well established local community.
Labour London Assembly Planning Spokesperson Nicky Gavron AM said:
“Losing Earls Court would be a huge set back for the London and UK economy. Earls Court brings in £1 billion a year, provides a shop window for UK industries and sustains thousands of long-term jobs in the local area. This economic benefit cannot and will not be replaced by a one-off construction project.
“The Mayor has just returned from a trip to India trying to attract investment into London. Yet, within the next month or two he may remove one of London’s best shop windows for promoting national industries. Boris Johnson instigated the redevelopment of Earls Court by designating it an Opportunity Area. As Chair of Transport for London he owns the land and as Mayor he is currently due to make the final decision on the planning application.
“There is no evidence that London needs less exhibition space. Britain’s competitors are currently expanding their own capacity because they understand the economic benefits these centres create. If the Mayor allows this proposal to go ahead he will be losing a £1 billion a year contribution to the economy and will be damaging the UK’s economic competitiveness.”