Constructing a new future

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Constructing a new future

Capital and Counties (CapCo), landowner and property developer, was granted outline planning permission for their £8bn proposed Earls Court and Olympia redevelopment last week.

This scheme would create more than 6,700 homes (including a large number ofaffordable ones), 84,701 square metres of office space, a hospital and 32,256 square metres of retail space, as well as hotels and serviced apartments. Today, the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates contain 761 homes and house close to 2,000 residents, while the proposed scheme would house more than three times as many.

The Earls Court/Olympia redevelopment has an even greater vision than the Ferrier Estate in Greenwich, Woodberry Down in Hackney or Heygate in Southwark – none of which received as much opposition as this. The planning permission came against backlash from local residents of the estates who turned out inforce at the planning meeting in hope to further raise their concerns. Their vision for the neighbourhood is that the estate should be handed over to a community-based landlord and be democratically controlled by themselves. Anassociation would be run by “annually elected residents” and “managed by professionals.”

Although I certainly don’t agree with this vision, I don’t think CapCo chief executive Ian Hamsworth’s argument about the redevelopment creating a“socio-economic mix and balance in the area” should be the focus either – the construction boost and the 12,000 permanent jobs the project would create should.  That’s where this debate gets very interesting indeed.

The headline statistics for the construction industry are grim; jobs have fallen by 53,000 over the last year and some 160,000 workers are currently claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance at an annual cost of nearly £1 billion to the Treasury. Some 5,000 construction firms have gone bust and national construction output has contracted by 10 per cent over the last year.

These numbers show that a boost in the industry is required in order to create permanent jobs and to bring companies back into business. Public construction has stalled over the past few years and we need more private companies who are willing to invest in property. Or even better: Invest in redevelopments that also create jobs in other sectors, such as retail and leisure.

I don’t believe policies such as David Cameron’s conservatory plans will help us construct a new future – big projects like this are.

Merete Svendsen, Account Executive

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