Insight: Earls Court future will not be decided by residents
14-Jan-11by Annie Byrne
The future of Earls Court was given a lift earlier this week when the Government announced plans to proceed with new regulation enabling local estates to prevent development by stakeholders.But media reports that developers and the Tory council could be stopped from developing over the land occupied by the Earls Court exhibition halls are, unfortunately for the exhibition industry, misleading. Recent developments may protect the future of the surrounding estates, but proposed residential changes are unlikely to have any bearing on the destiny of the exhibition halls.Local residents group should become better enabled to protect against development of their estates and the surrounding area because of two things: Prime Minister David Cameron’s drive towards Big Society, empowering local communities to manage themselves; and an amendment to the Housing Act 1985 titled Section 34A, which Labour introduced to facilitate the transfer of social housing estates to resident-controlled community landlords. Through Cameron’s policy of Big Society, Section 34A is now highly likely to be ratified before the summer.Section 34A is an amendment to the Housing Act; the son of Tenants Choice legislation used by Walter & Elgin Community Homes to wrest its estates back from Dame Shirley Porter as she gerrymandered Westminster Council in 1988. The legislation was repealed in the 1990s. It stands to reason that it may protect the residents against cash-hungry developers, but their ability to protect against the redevelopment of the exhibition halls and subsequent building of office blocks in their place remains almost entirely unaffected.Speaking to EN earlier this week, Jonathan Rosenberg, an active campaigner against the development of the Earls Court estates, said that “it would be a shame to lose the halls” but stated that residents were primarily opposed to the demolishing of 750 houses and the construction of 8,000 in their place and nearby. “We just want our homes left the way they are,” he said. Earls Court site owner Capital and Counties Properties (CapCo) is due to submit its planning application for the site to the council in May. The company hopes to redevelop the site as a combination of residential and business space.CapCo has also embarked on a £20m redevelopment of the nearby Olympia site.