Earl’s Court: ‘no decision’ yet on new masterplan for controversial scheme

The lead developer behind one of London’s largest regeneration projects says it has yet to decide whether to submit a new masterplan for the area, having told London Mayor Sadiq Khan five months ago it had been inspired by him to review the original scheme.

Property giant Capital and Counties (Capco), which secured permissions for the comprehensive redevelopment of approximately 77 acres of the Earl’s Court area in 2013, told the mayor in December that an “optimised” version of the project could increase the number of new homes it delivered from a minimum of 7,500 to at least 10,000 and that it envisaged “moving forward” with him and others on a review of the original masterplan in the first half of this year.

Negotiations to that end have since taken place between Capco and City Hall, covering an increase in building density and also the possible introduction of properties for private rent and additional shared ownership homes, though more recent progress appears to have been slow. Other parties to the project include the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Royal Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), whose border the development area straddles.

Khan was critical of the Earl’s Court project during last year’s mayoral election campaign for its low promised percentage of additional affordable homes. A spokesperson for Capco said the existing masterplan is kept under “constant review” and that no decision had been taken either on “the timing of any possible [new planning] application”.

Last October, a full, cross-party meeting of Conservative-led Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC), one of the two boroughs the development area straddles, unanimously resolved that any significant changes to the density and mix of the housing planned for the parts of the scheme that fall within its jurisdiction should require a completely new planning application being submitted, rather than adjustments being made to the existing one.

In January, Capco received detailed planning consent from RBKC to build Exhibition Square, a “gateway” to the main part of the project, where the now demolished Earls Court exhibition centre buildings previously stood. In March, the company hailed the arrival of what it called “London’s largest crane” to remove the platform over rail lines which the centre had been constructed on.

Capco’s annual report for 2016, published in February, revealed that the value of the Earl’s Court project as a whole had fallen by 20% during the previous year due to a slump at the top end of the London property market. However, the report also described sales of market homes under construction in Lillie Square, a separate site south of Lillie Road, as progressing well.

It also said that the company had received a substantial loan from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, responsible for facilitating delivery of homes and businesses, “to fund infrastructure works on site”. The the former exhibition centre land is in the hands of a joint venture between Capco and Transport for London called the Earls Court Partnership Ltd. Capco has a £95m share of the £150m HCA loan, says the report.

In April, Capco sold what remained of its exhibition business, essentially the Olympia exhibition centre a short distance from the Earl’s Court Project area, to a German consortium for £296m.

Updated at 16:00.


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