UK: Local residents' groups have appealed for funds to help them prevent the possible demolition of PLASA Show host venue, Earls Court Exhibition Centre. As part of the campaign to ensure the future of the historic venue, the groups have alluded to recent Pro Sound News Europe and PSN-e news coverage.
As reported in the February issue of PSNE, Earls Court & Olympia owner CapCo (Capital & Counties) is considering a major residential and office development on 70 acres of land, a large part of which is in the ownership of Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Transport for London.
According to the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Residents Associations - prime movers behind the Save Earls Court campaign - there are only 35 years left on CapCo's lease for Earls Court 1.
Quoted recently on the Exhibition News website (21/1/10), Association of Event Organisers chief executive Austen Hawkins remarked: "Supporting the UK's exhibition industry is not their core focus. Organisers want as much space as possible, and Earls Court currently hosts some of the UK's best-loved events."
However, the Save Earls Court group argues that the change of usage would entail the demolition of two council estates, a London Underground train/maintenance depot and Earls Court 1 & 2.
Whilst admitting that any firm decision was some months away, Chris Rumfitt from CapCo's PR consultancy, Edelman, recently told PSNE that should the other landholders join the scheme, "putting the three together would give you an area of opportunity of such a scale that you could do something truly fantastic in terms of sustainable city-making".
Responding to the statement, Jonathan Rosenberg, adviser to West Kensington & Gibbs Green Residents Associations, tells PSN-e that this claim is "exaggerated" and fails to justify the loss of the "successful and popular" Earls Court exhibition centre. He also questions the implications for the "settled, mixed and diverse community" of the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estates, and the "threat to the street market that plays such a central role in binding the local community".
In one of many messages issued to CapCo PR consultants Edelman, Rosenberg asks: "How can you 'make a sustainable city' by disrupting a sustainable community, destroying sustainable homes and a sustainable exhibition centre, and by threatening a sustainable market?"
The residents' groups say that Earls Court exhibition centre has continued to perform strongly through the economic downturn as a venue for both large-scale entertainment events and exhibitions. Rosenberg also questions the environmental impact of demolition and subsequent redevelopment, and is pressing for a detailed breakdown of the scheme's projected carbon footprint.
Rather than 'regeneration', claim the residents' associations, the plans are more likely to result in "social re-engineering". By way of proof, Rosenberg points to the 'Earls Court Area Regeneration Framework' document of June 2009, submitted by CapCo to the Mayor of London and Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham councils, and containing the following claim: "The creation of a sustainable and balanced community has been hindered by the concentration of social and economic deprivation. The redevelopment of the area can create the desired socio-economic mix and balance."
In response, the residents' groups are proposing an alternative way forward whereby the 763 homes are transferred to a community association controlled by residents that would enable "local people to decide their own future".
"As things stand, we have no choice but to campaign to save Earls Court itself," says Rosenberg. "We know we can win this fight because ever since we challenged the developer and its PR company to justify the demolition of Earls Court there has been a deafening silence."
"We love the Exhibition Centre, just as we love our homes," Rosenberg continues. "We must save it for the benefit of future generations: our fate is bound to Earls Court, so we are best motivated, equipped and qualified for the task ahead. With the help of the industry and the public, we are confident we will win. Long live Earls Court!"
Anyone interested in lending their support to the Save Earls Court campaign can contact Jonathan Rosenberg on 07961 301 801 or Rosenberg@freeuk.com, and/or send donations to Naeem Uddin, Treasurer, Gibbs Green Residents Association, 22 Gibbs Green London W14 9NB.