Earlier this afternoon, planning minster Nick Boles wrote to me to inform me that, despite my calls to the contrary, the government will not launch an inquiry into the controversial Earls Court redevelopment.
Boles used localism as an excuse to let the plans go ahead, despite the fact that local residents are fighting the development in order to save their homes.
In his letter, Boles claims that there’s no need for a public inquiry because the application does not touch on important issues that was merit on. He says the proposals do not:
1. involve a conflict with national policies on important matters (they do);
2. have a significant long term impact on economic growth (but loss of exhibition space is huge blow to a potential growth industry and will cost jobs) and meeting housing needs (the development will provide not one new affordable home despite huge need in the local area) across a wider area than single local authority (the project is in two boroughs);
3. have significant effects beyond their immediate locality (this will impact on London as a region);
4. give rise to substantial cross boundary or national controversy (the development has attracted nothing but controversy from the two boroughs and beyond);
5. raise significant architectural and urban design issues (one of the chief complaints is that the development is completely out of character with the existing area; or
6. involve the interests of national security or of foreign Governments.
Well then, at least on one point he’s right. But on five of the six issues apparently not raised, it seems the minister has ignored every piece of the huge wealth of evidence to the contrary.
In light of the letter I put out the following press release:
Government gives go ahead on Earls Court demolition
Labour London Assembly Member Nicky Gavron today condemned the Government’s failure to order a public inquiry into the controversial £8 billion Earls Court redevelopment. This follows Planning Minister Nick Boles writing to Ms. Gavron yesterday announcing that the controversial project will go ahead.
The minister sent Nicky Gavron a copy of a letter explaining that he does not believe the project raises issues significant enough to warrant a public inquiry. However, five of the six grounds rejected fly in the face of all the facts. Local residents have fought to save their homes and protect the 12,500 jobs in the area that rely on the Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
London Assembly Labour Group Planning Spokesperson, Nicky Gavron AM, said:
“This decision is a failure by the Government to listen to the serious concerns of local people. It is extraordinary that the Government waved this project through despite the many unanswered questions. This controversial redevelopment will see the loss of the iconic Earls Court exhibition space and a well-established local community.
“I believe Nick Boles is using localism as an excuse to allow the demolition to go ahead, when in fact it is local people who want to halt the demolition. This is one of the largest redevelopment projects in London but any criticism has been tossed aside as the Mayor and his local authority partners ploughed it through the planning process. A project of this scale that impacts on London’s economy and mixed communities deserves proper scrutiny, but the Government have failed to do so.”
Nicky Gavron last month joined a cross-party group of London Assembly Members calling on the Government to launch a public inquiry. She argued that the project’s failure to comply with local and London Plan policies, and its impact on the economy and provision of affordable housing, merited additional scrutiny. She also noted concerns over the planning process, including Mayor Boris Johnson’s conflict of interest by exercising his planning functions despite serving as chair of an organisation – Transport for London – with a financial interest in the project.
The redevelopment of Earls Court will cost thousands of jobs in the exhibitions industry as well as to the local and national economy. Earls Court contributes £1 billion a year and brings 2.5 million visitors and 30,000 exhibitors to West London. It will also result in the demolition of the well-established communities on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, two of the highest-quality and modern estates in London.
1. Nicky Gavron is a Labour city-wide member of the London Assembly
2. Developer EC Properties LP plan to build 7,600 primarily luxury flats would see the demolition of the art deco Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre and the well-established communities of Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates. The homes on the estate will be replaced but most not on site and residents will not be offered like-for-like. Of the new properties, the vast majority will be one- and two-bedroom. There will be 740 additional ‘affordable’ homes, which will be shared ownership or for sub-market sale. Of these, there is not one additional affordable home for rent, according to the Section 106 agreement.
3. The planning applications were waved through by London Mayor Boris Johnson in July after receiving consent from both the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham councils. The Department for Communities and Local Government agreed to review the applications to determine whether to let the decisions stand or to launch a public inquiry, but yesterday announced that it is ignoring residents’ concerns by letting the project go ahead.