It’s hard to do justice to the sheer scale of Capco’s Earls Court redevelopment.
The masterplan for one of London’s biggest regeneration projects aims to address the issues created by the capital’s growing population.
The 31 ha site stretches across a swathe of west London, encapsulating tube and overground stations at Earls Court, West Kensington and West Brompton.
The scheme consists of 7,500 new homes, of which 1,500 will be classed as affordable. There will be 8.8m sq ft of residential, 1m sq ft of office blocks, 290,000 sq ft of retail space and 310,000 sq ft of hotel and leisure facilities. By the end of the regeneration, 10,000 jobs will have been created.
The tour group arrives at Capco’s project room – an open, communal space, which documents progress to date as well as what’s to come.
We’re introduced to Capco head of engagement Hannah Staunton, who’s enthuses about how this project is focused on “community”, taking the room through the various features of the development, including the ’Lost River Park’ – a line of green space that will stretch across the finished scheme.
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After a brief overview, including a lavishly decked-out table model of the completed project and a few safety instructions, we’re prompted into our hi-vis gear and hard-hats before being ushered onto the site.
Keltbray has been contracted for phase one of the project, which includes demolishing the former Earls Court exhibition centres. The firm is currently undertaking groundworks as we stroll across the site.
The demolition of the former exhibition centre also provided the biggest challenge for Keltbray project manager Bobby Gannon – particularly the work around lowering the building’s roof.
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“We took [the roof] down in one lift; that was unique; I’ve never done that before,” he says.
The 1,300-tonne roof, equivalent to the size of five jumbo jets, took 12 hours to lower successfully after four years of meticulous planning. Three tower cranes were used on site and 150 operatives were present during the process.
Overall, 20,000 cu m of demolition material will be re-used during the building phase.
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We finish the site visit and head to the workers’ canteen, where a selection of graduates and apprentices are waiting to talk to us, as part of a ‘job fair’ – I talk to assistant project manager Laura McAnulty, who’s made the move from health and safety adviser.
Ms McAnulty is keen to share her experience, and her enthusiasm for the industry is clear as she talks about being able to prove that women can excel in the industry and that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Before it’s time to leave, a final word from Mr Gannon on the Open Doors initiative and attracting a younger generation: “We’re trying. We’re trying to change the perception of the industry. It’s what we want and it is happening. The door’s always open.”
Earls Court redevelopment phase one
Contractor: Keltbray are the sole demolition contractor
Value: £1.4bn (overall redevelopment value)
Start date: Demolition began in 2015
Completion date: May span 15-18 years
Location: West London