NEWS FROM THE EARL’S COURT BUSINESS FORUM

By Sam Knight

Businesses in Earls Court are forming a new network to discuss how to address challenges and opportunities facing the local area.

The first meeting of the business forum took place on 23 January, with a range of local business representatives in attendance, placemaking consultancy The means, and property developer and investment advisor Delancey, who kindly hosted. The means, who were appointed by the Council during the latter half of 2019 to engage local businesses and facilitate the development of a local business forum, presented findings from more than 90 interviews with Earls Court businesses about local priorities and areas of interest. Three key themes were identified for roundtable discussion, one of which was the desire for a supportive environment for local businesses.

When asked about their biggest challenges, many businesses cited uncertainty and costs relating to Brexit, rents or rates. Others spoke about support with licensing or having more information about what is happening in the area. This translated into an appetite to see an independent business forum that could represent the views of businesses, provide regular communication, and coordinate action.

Discussion about the creation of a business forum appears to be timely. In December 2019, Delancey, on behalf of its client fund and APG saw the acquisition of Capco’s interests in the Earls court development site. While this sale has unlocked some long-standing sticking points, such as the return of two housing estates to Hammersmith and Fulham Council, it will likely result in a new planning application and, consequently, a new consultation process. An organised business forum is one way of ensuring there is a representative business voice and good communication about progress and consultation opportunities.

Other areas discussed were businesses’ interest in the identity of the wider Earls Court area and how to attract customers.  For some this centred on what would fill the identity gap left by the Exhibition Centre; others focussed on whether the current business mix is attractive to consumers. The common theme was to agree and pull together behind a vision and activities that build on Earls Court’s assets and give people a clear reason to visit. Suggested activities included, for example, a festival that builds on the variety of cuisine in Earls Court, or pop-up uses of accessible parts of the development site.

A discussion about Earls Court’s public environment revealed suggestions around cleanliness, anti-social behaviour, and traffic. The businesses brainstormed ideas for short- and long-term projects to address these issues, such as jet washing of specific ‘grot spots’ and better streamlining of commercial waste services to help save costs and ease the number of delivery vehicles coming into the area.

Finally, a discussion took place about the possible role of a business forum for Earls Court.  A key comment about the forum was that it “needs to contain real outputs and benefits for business that happen quickly, not just be a talking shop”. As such, a number of businesses volunteered to be part of a steering group to develop delivery proposals further.

There will be more forum events in the future and all Earls Court businesses are encouraged to get involved. For more information or for details of future meetings contact earlscourt@themeans.co.uk.