With all the furore over the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates, one aspect of the Earls Court development that is often overlooked is the way in which the exhibition industry is furious about the loss of the space. Chelsea's submissions to LBHF have made clear mention of a stadium that would incorporate exhibition facilities. So we thought we would ask the industry for their view. Karim Halwagi, CEO of the Association of Event Organisers answered some questions;
What are your views on the loss of EC as an exhibition facility?
The removal of Earl's Court (with absolutely no discussion or even consideration about a replacement) would cripple the industry and relegate London and the UK far down the rank of hosts for international trading fairs and events. Already, major companies have chosen to expand by holding shows abroad (in Germany) since there is not enough suitable venue stock in London and the UK.
Are you aware of the ideas and plans CFC have as part of a stadium development and whether they would meet the needs of the exhibition industry?
I have not been able to get specifics for the proposal but I was made aware of the concept. If there was any indication that this could be viable I would be very interested for the AEO to work with CFC in developing the idea to ensure that it could work with and enjoy the support from the UK Exhibition & Events Industry.
What has been the CapCo, council and/or the Mayor of London's response to your representations regarding the damage to the UK exhibition industry?
In general our representations have been ignored or dealt with as a matter of process. We have noted the complete disregard for our industry – an industry that has a Net Annual Expenditure of £11 Billion in the UK and a Gross Value Added of £5.6 Billion – in that all issues point East. The Mayor seems to believe that any venue stock issues can be dealt with by ExCeL. The Mayor and City Hall seem to think that we can compete as a 'World City' where other countries are EXPANDING their venue capacity. The removal of one of the most internationally well-known and popular event venues sends a disastrous message around the world. Other major cities are expanding their venue stock as they fully understand the economic benefits of the industry, whilst the UK and London are reducing. The demolition of Earl's Court will simply diminish the status of this country and its capital in the eyes of the rest of the world.
In your estimation, how much in monetary terms might the loss of EC mean to British industry and the UK economy?
I wish I could provide definitive figures, but I can safely say that the monetary effect of the demolition of Earls Court will be in the £100's Millions with a view to direct, indirect and induced impact.