The Association of Event Organisers (AEO) has teamed up with global exhibition association UFI to ask Business Secretary Vince Cable to help instigate a public inquiry on the planned demolition of Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
In writing to Cable, the associations have said the closure will impact the exhibitions and events industry, but also the wider community.
They call on the Lib Dem minister’s support of their demand that the planning applications relating to the Earls Court Opportunity Area be ‘called in’ so that the Government can judge all the evidence through a fully transparent inquiry.
The Labour London Assembly has said the Earls Court loss will be a blow to the UK economy.
“The effect of the potential loss of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, possibly the UK’s best known venue on an international basis, would be enormous, not only for the UK exhibitions and events industry, but it would also have a huge impact on attracting foreign companies to exhibit and even stage their own events in London,” said AEO chief executive officer Karim Halwagi.
“The irony is that UK trade and industry deeply wishes to attract foreign event organisers to the UK but we already have a shortage of venue stock – you must remember, there are only 52 weeks in a year and one or two venues cannot host the enormous range of large consumer and trade events that are currently held in the UK annually, let alone additional events from abroad.”
The associations say the exhibition centre brings 2.5m visitors and 300,000 exhibitors to west London every year, generating over £1bn in revenue.
The UK has five per cent of European exhibition space compared to 22 per cent in Germany, 14 per cent in France and 10 per cent in Spain, while London’s largest venue Excel London is only the 36th biggest in the world. By contrast, Paris has two venues in the top 10.
“Demolishing Earls Court could set a potential UK growth industry further behind key international competitors,” said UFI managing director Paul Woodward. “Furthermore there is no evidence that London needs less exhibition space. In fact, the UK competitors are currently expanding their own capacity precisely because they understand the economic benefits the centres and the events that they host create.”
The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) became the second council to approve plans to redevelop the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area in November.
The masterplan, designed by Sir Terry Farrell, includes garden squares, mansion blocks and open space and 12,000 new jobs. The scheme will comprise 938,000sqm of development including 7,500 new homes, around 1,500 of which will be affordable, offices, hotels, work space, education, cultural and community facilities, as well as a new five-acre park for London.
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