Global: Dave Hill | Earls Court: ‘You could knock down the V&A and build flats there. But should you?’

A couple who run a cafe near the demolition-threatened Earls Court exhibition centre fear its demise as part of major redevelopment scheme would destroy the area’s character

Deena and Henry Baghdasarian met in London in the late seventies. Both were students from overseas, he from Armenia, she from an Iran on its way to revolution. They opened their cafe, Deena B, in Old Brompton Road in 2007, right at the start of the recession but, they say, it’s getting easier now. They love this part of town. The thought of the Earls Court exhibition centre being demolished fills them with dismay.

“It’s just this big, big part of London,” Henry says. “It’s been there since 1937. All those wonderful shows, and they’re going to just go.” He and Deena do not share the enthusiasm of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham councils for the Capital and Counties-led Earls Court redevelopment project, which they promise will revive the area with 7,500 new homes and 9,500 new jobs.

“You could knock down the Victoria and Albert museum and put flats up there instead,” Henry remarks, rhetorically. “But should you?” Deena talks about returning customers, visitors from far and wide, who are perturbed by rumours of the centre’s demise. She doubts that the transformation would be an opportunity for small traders such as her and Henry. “It’ll be all Costa and M&S, the usual chains,” she says.

The couple say their own business would be hurt. But what stirs them most is the thought of the area losing its character. “People say they like England because it is so different, but it isn’t all the same,” Deena says. For her, losing the exhibition centre would lengthen a sorry list: red telephone kiosks, the old-fashioned black London cabs, she could go on.

As for flats, high-rise, medium-rise, any shape or size, they should be built somewhere else. Henry: “There seems to be no end to them. They’ll just be bought by rich people who’ll let them sit there for years and years. a cleaner will drop in now and then, God knows who for. It will be a huge benefit for the developer, of course. But where does the development lead?

Further reading: my timeline of the Earls Court Project and an archive of my coverage of the scheme. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

via Global: Dave Hill |

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