Businesses in Earls Court gathered for the first time on 23 January as the first step in creating a new network that can address challeneges and opportunities facing the local area. Along with the range of local business representatives, also in attendance were placemaking consultancy The means, members of Kensington and Chelsea's Economic Development team, Cllr Catherine Faulks, and property developer Delancey, who also hosted the event at the Earls Court development site.
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, including attracting customers to the area, addressing amenity issues and creating a supportive business environment.
When looking at the identity of Earls Court and how to attract customers, some businesses centred on what would fill the gap left by the Exhibition Centre; others focussed on whether the current business mix is attractive to consumers. The attractiveness of Earls Court’s public environment was also covered, with suggestions around cleanliness, anti-social behaviour, and traffic. The businesses brainstormed ideas to address these issues, such as jet washing of specific ‘grot spots’ and better streamlining of commercial waste services.
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 all translated into an appetite to see an independent business forum that could represent the views of businesses, provide regular communication, and coordinate action.
Additionally, following the December 2019 sale of Capco’s interest in the Earls Court development site to a joint venture led by Delancey, an organised business forum will be one way of ensuring there is a representative business body to review progress and consultation opportunities.
Finally, a discussion took place about the 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, simply contact email@example.com.
Further information about business in the borough can be found at rbkc.gov.uk/business-and-enterprise.