Labour’s u-turn on Earls Court redevelopment?

adonisThis morning I’ve written for Conservative Home about City Villages. It’s a report from the left wing think tank the IPPR edited by the Labour peer Lord Adonis. He was seeking to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of London but is now backing Dame Tessa Jowell. He was also brought in as an advisor to the new Labour administration in Hammersmith and Fulham.

There is some local interest in the report as Lord Adonis praises the Earls Court redevelopment. In the past Labour have opposed it. The Labour MP Andrew Slaughter made false claim during the last General Election campaign in 2010 that residents would be forced to live in Barking and Dagenham.

But Lord Adonis says:

“As for larger, current city village developments, Gary Yardley, investment director of one of London’s biggest developers Capco, explains his vision for Earls Court, one of the largest development sites in inner London (nearly 80 acres to provide some 7,500 new homes).

“In many ways Earls Court is London’s next ‘great estate’, reinventing their legacy and approach for the 21st century. The site assembly at Earls Court is itself a remarkable feat: partly existing White City council estates, partly large redundant Transport for London (TfL) train storage and repair facilities, and partly the site of the decommissioned Earls Court Exhibition Centre. TfL will retain a stake in the development company for Earls Court.

“The masterplan combines higher density with significant new public amenity, creating new streetscapes and retail/business centres, a site for a new London museum or gallery, new schools, a large new public park, and a car club which every resident will be invited to join.”

Leave aside the shaky grasp of local geography betrayed by his reference to “White City”. This is a positive message about the development.

Then there is Mr Yardley essay which says:

“Major opportunities come with significant challenges – specifically that volumes should not compromise the need for good-quality homes, connectivity or the need for community integration, and the recruitment of good architects is integral to providing vision to sites of this scale.

Essential to getting major projects off the ground are strong relationships with local governments and planners, to ensure the masterplan of the site meets the expectations of local residents and Londoners. In the case of Earls Court, this involves two local authorities, in particular working closely with Hammersmith and Fulham council to ensure all existing qualifying residents of the old estates will be offered a new home within the development. Such major regenerations may transform the landscape, but in order to retain the social fabric and history of places, ensuring the current residents have a place in the new community is critical for building new places around existing social infrastructure.”

The existing West Ken and Gibbs Green estates are rather closed off from the wider area. This is a typical flaw with council estates – very divisive. Restoring street patterns will change this. The new homes will be better than the existing homes.

Not that they will necessarily be as attractive as they could. When Mr Yardley talks about “good architects” he means award winning architects which means bad architects. Trying to ensure that the new housing is attractive is an area where the council could have a positive influence. Unfortunately with the current administrations modernist planning policies – which favour more tower blocks – this is unlikely. But Mr Yardley can hardly be blamed for operating within the design guidance of planning officers.

Still this is a scheme that will offer real improvements. More housing, better housing, a better mix of tenure. It will mean our community is brought together rather than having one section closed off from the rest.


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