Eric Pickles Will Not "Call In" Earls Court Plans

Campaigners pledge to continue fight despite new "milestone"

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Secretary of state Eric Pickles has decided not to "call in" the outline planning application for the controversial £8 billion redevelopment of Earls Court.

Planning minister Nick Boles has told the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that the secretary of state will not call in applications lodged by developer EC Properties, a subsidiary of Capital and Counties, or Capco.

The decision follows Mayor of London Boris Johnson's approval of the plans in July.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council has described this announcement as a "milestone".

It brings the redevelopment, including the demolition of West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates and Earls Court Exhibition Centre, another step closer.

The application by EC Properties, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capital & Counties PLC, is based on Sir Terry Farrell’s masterplan, allowing for 5,845 new homes in Hammersmith & Fulham, new shops, offices, leisure facilities, public open space, a new school, new transport links, healthcare centre and community centre.

The consent also includes £490 million of community benefits from a Section 106 agreement, and council says final details of the agreement are expected to be finalised in September.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: “This is fantastic news, ushering in a new generation of opportunity and prosperity for West London."

The decision however has had an angry response from opposition politicians and unions.

London Labour Assembly Member Nicky Gavron says the planning minister sent her a copy of a letter saying that he does not believe the project raises issues significant enough to warrant a public inquiry.

However, she says 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.

She says: " 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.

“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."

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter has also reacted angrily an says the fight will now go to the courts.

He says: " ‘West Ken and Earl's Court residents didn't expect Eric Pickles to do them any favours, developers always come before communities with this Government. But it has given us time to prepare a legal challenge to the planning consent which the Councils will now sign off.

"In fact, the slipshod way this decision has been made may give us another way of defeating the development. The Secretary of State says he will not to call in the planning application because it will not affect economic growth or housing needs, go wider than a single local authority or give rise to national controversy.

" It is a matter of fact that this scheme does all of this. It is the largest development under consideration in London, with an £8 billion value, almost no affordable housing and spanning two London boroughs. Not allowing a Public Inquiry may be unlawful as well as undemocratic."

Two unions whose members would be affected by the development, Unite and the RMT, have also given their support to groups opposing the Earls Court plans.

The Earls Court Area Action Group, fighting to save the exhibition centre, accused Eric Pickles of deliberately choosing the holiday time to make the announcement with no fanfare and pledged on Twitter @saveearlscourt: "To all our supporters, the fight continues."


August 27, 2013