Sadiq Khan has expressed support for Hammersmith & Fulham Council exploring using compulsory purchase powers to take ownership of a key site within the stalled Earls Court regeneration area.
Following a meeting yesterday with the Labour-run council’s leader Stephen Cowan, the Mayor said in a statement that “all options for breaking the current impasse must be considered” and that this included the council “exercising its ability to acquire the site using a compulsory purchase order (CPO)”.
Describing Earls Court as “one of the most important development sites in London”, Mayor Khan said he has “no confidence” in principal developer Capital and Counties (Capco) to “manage a development of this scale” but that a CPO “could be avoided if Capco simply sells its interests to a party capable of developing the site”.
The Mayor’s intervention will add to pressure on Capco to find a buyer against a backdrop of ongoing falls in the value of the asset. It is Khan’s latest public expression of impatience at the lack of progress with the project, which covers 77 acres in all and was devised and approved when Boris Johnson was London Mayor and Hammersmith & Fulham was in the hands of Tory allies.
Cowan decided in April to set a strategy for using CPO to secure part of the site, which was cleared of the famous Earls Court exhibition centre buildings in 2015 but lain empty since. Part of the exhibition centre land is in neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea and is therefore outside the scope of any Hammersmith & Fulham CPO. A report is scheduled to be brought to the council’s cabinet in September.
The exhibition centre land is owned by Transport for London (TfL), which in 2014 formed a joint venture company with Capco to redevelop the land. But earlier this month TfL told On London that a bid it had made to buy part of Capco’s 63% share of the company had been turned down and that it was “reviewing next steps”.
In February, Khan said his “patience is wearing thin” over the failure of Capco to return two housing estates, slated for demolition under the Johnson-approved plan, to the control of the council (which would reimburse Capco for it). This followed his telling On London in November that he wished to see an alternative masterplan for the area drawn up, which would include a higher quantity of affordable homes than before and only win his approval if the two estates were handed back to the council first. His new statement reiterates that requirement.
Capco has been seeking possible buyers for months without success, to the mounting annoyance of TfL, which wants the site built out as soon as possible in order to create a long-term revenue stream into its budgets, which are under strain. Last year, Capco said it was considering splitting its Earls Court holdings from its successful Covent Garden retail operation, but no de-merger has occurred. In his new statement, Khan said he is “not convinced” by this idea and believes it would “further damage” the potential of the Earls court site for redevelopment.
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