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All-new team brought in to masterplan 10ha Earl’s Court site

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Hawkins\Brown and Studio Egret West have succeeded Farrells as masterplanners of a 10ha site in Earl’s Court, west London

Farrells’ masterplan for the site was consented by two London boroughs – Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham – back in 2012.

Architects including Make, Allies and Morrison and John McAslan + Partners were appointed to design different stages of the scheme, and the Earls Court Exhibition Centres formerly on the site were demolished in 2014.

However, only that masterplan’s first phase, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox and Pilbrow & Partners, will be developed. Lillie Square is still being built by developer Capco but welcomed its first residents in 2016.

The rest of the Earl’s Court site was bought by Delancey and its client, Dutch pension fund APG, from Capco in December 2019.

The new owners handed back the West Kensington and Gibbs Green states, which formed part of Farrells’ original masterplan, to Hammersmith and Fulham council.

Now they have picked Hawkins\Brown and Studio Egret West to create a masterplan for the remainder of the site, following a six-month competition.

The architects have been asked to create a ‘significantly more mixed-use’ masterplan than Farrells’, ‘so that more commercial space is simultaneously delivered alongside a revised housing plan’.

The Earl’s Court Area Action Group, a local residents’ group campaigning for sustainable development with affordable homes, said the new site should include ‘significant greenery’, as the area has air quality that is among the worst in the country.

The group also calls for the masterplan to include ‘massing and scale sensitive to the Victorian residential area’ and a number of affordable homes.

Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown are being employed by the Earls Court Development Company, a joint venture between Delancey, on behalf of investors, and Transport for London, a partial owner of the site.

The practices have previously worked together on projects including a Stirling Prize-nominated retrofit of a block at Sheffield’s Park Hill estate and a 1,500 home scheme in London’s Docklands.

In January the practices also won separate competitions to regenerate the City of London’s Grade II*-listed Smithfield Market complex.

Statement from Earl’s Court Area Action Group 

We are calling for meanwhile-use on the site to include a green, multi-purpose temporary venue for exhibitions, events and sports given Earl’s Court’s Olympic heritage. This would generate overnight stays which will help the local economy including hotels, bars and restaurants and help our national economy to recover.

Given that, according to Friends of the Earth, Earl’s Court has the worst air quality in the country, we need significant greenery on the site now. Significant greenery must also be part of the site on a permanent basis.

We are also calling for an international design competition to build a permanent, significant, multi-purpose venue – ‘the world’s greenest venue’.

As with the meanwhile use venue, it too must generate overnight stays to help support the local and national economy.

We would like the site to have a range of exemplary, green housing options including provision for sheltered independent living for older and mobility restricted residents as well as families and key workers.

There should also be social infrastructure include a crèche and pre-school facilities, provision for a secondary school, and support home working hubs.

We would like to see step-free access to the site from Earl’s Court tube station and access to the Overground at West Brompton.

We believe an area action plan is needed to avoid basic mistakes.

For example, retail in the new development must be carefully chosen. What we do not need is a new high street which would affect businesses in Earl’s Court Road and would lead to even less people in Earl’s Court going to High Street Kensington – which has been decimated by high rents and rates and the opening of Westfield. Encouraging independent businesses and avoiding more chain shops would be a positive development.

The promised Olympic Legacy has not materialised. Therefore the new masterplan must continue the Olympic legacy in Earl’s Court and promote inclusive sports for all.

The new masterplan must integrate into the local streetscape and housing in materials, height, scale and massing. It must be sensitive to the Victorian residential area – not overpowering and disconnected from the existing area.

Care must be taken in the use of materials to help integrate into the local streetscape with mansion-block style to deliver on the density.

Green space and greenery should be significant for physical and mental well-being. Choice of plants and landscaping must be focused on the climate emergency.

At the mixed development at Kings Cross by Argent they achieved a creative balance between the retail, commercial, residential and art school (and gallery) and doing so in one of the largest open spaces in London, with an interesting tall building cluster close to the station, opening up the canal side and innovative reuse of existing architecture.

The same could be applied to Earl’s Court with the retention of Empress Place as light industrial units for small businesses and cultural enterprises.

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