There are plans to transform Earl’s Court with new homes, culture and a massive park
With space in London at such a premium, it’s pretty astonishing that a massive 40-acre patch of Earl’s Court real estate has been left untouched since 2017. That’s the year when the famous Earls Court Exhibition Centre was demolished, with English Heritage granting special dispensation allowing the historic buildings to be knocked down.
In its heyday, the exhibition centre hosted every kind of big event imaginable: the Ideal Home Show, the Brit Awards, military tattoo the Royal Tournament, Crufts dog show and even the volleyball at the 2012 London Olympics. Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and the Spice Girls all played gigs there.
When the centre’s then-owner opened discussions around demolishing the buildings in 2010, there were protests from the Earl’s Court Area Action Group. It raised objections that London would be losing a major venue, and that redevelopment would cause decades of disruption. But then-mayor Boris Johnson approved the development plans in 2013 and by 2017 all that remained of the site was rubble.
Since then, no further plans for this immensely valuable site have materialised. Four years ago, previous owner Capco’s highly controversial scheme to turn the area into a luxury housing development was abandoned. But now, the wait is over, and seriously ambitious plans have been drawn up by The Earls Court Development Company (ECDC), which comprises majority owner property investors Delancey, and Transport for London. Under the proposal, 4,500 new homes are to be built, of which 35 percent will be designated ‘affordable’ (which as we know, is no guarantee that ordinary Londoners can actually afford them). Two thirds will be for rent, many of them to students, while one third will be for sale.
The development will take the form of towerblocks surrounding a green city park larger than Trafalgar Square, laid out with woodlands and meadows. Some features of the current site are being retained: an old train shed will house cultural events and markets, while The Prince pub will be converted into workspaces. And there’s a further commitment to continue to host live music, comedy, exhibitions, and other events across multiple venues including a new space called Destination Earls Court, although the precise form this will take isn’t yet clear.
The developers also have big plans for environmental sustainability. They aim to go beyond net zero by generating energy on site and sharing it with the local area. They also aim to create a biodiverse ecosystem, recycling rainwater and planting green roofs. Only 40 percent of the site will be built on, leaving as much as possible open to the public in the form of tree-lined boulevards and green spaces.
The first phase of the project will commence in 2025, delivering the new park, 1,300 homes, plus shops, cafés and cultural activities. The full scheme won’t be completed until 2040, meaning years of disruption for local residents, as predicted. Still, with 15,000 permanent jobs being created and £100 million of spending boosting the local area, the benefits are clear: at long last, Zone 1’s final remaining patch of wasteland is returning to use.
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