'A key moment': Plans to expand ExCeL by 21,000sqm approved
- Credit: Grimshaw
A major extension of the ExCeL was given the thumbs-up by councillors.
The approved plans will see an extra 21,000 square metres of exhibition and conference space created, as well as food and drink facilities.
The extension, which would mostly be built on the 425 space car park to the east of the Royal Docks site, was debated by councillors on Newham Council's strategic development committee on October 12.
The plans will now be referred to mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
ExCeL London chief executive Jeremy Rees told the meeting: "We are pleased to call Newham our home and fully invested in the future of the borough.
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"In order for ExCeL to compete against other international venues and continue to grow, ExCeL must expand.
"The expansion is fundamental to the ongoing success of ExCeL."
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ExCeL described this as the third phase of its venue, which first opened in 2000 and now hosts around four million visitors per year.
A floating walkway along the dock is also among the proposals, while a report said the current pedestrian route between the dock and Prince Regent DLR station would be re-routed around the extension.
This route would be flanked by direct entrances to a boulevard, cafes and restaurants, according to Chris Gascoigne, planning consultant for the ExCeL.
He said: "ExCeL sometimes feels like a fortress to residents so we wanted to ensure through the phase three design that we'd really try and open it up so it feels like a shopfront."
The ExCeL has also committed, as part of a section 106 agreement, to spend £225,000 on walking and cycling route improvements.
These will see improved pedestrian and cycle links between Victoria Dock Road and Royal Albert Way and a new footway on the west side of the latter.
It is also proposing improvements to the dock edge path east of the centre, as well as new crossings on Victoria Dock Road and Sandstone Lane.
A pocket park is also earmarked to the north of the building, beneath the DLR line overhead.
The council report said the plans will enable the ExCeL to host more conventions and events with large visitor numbers, but the ExCeL has "no intention" of running larger events than it does now, it added.
As well as the loss of the 425-space eastern car park, the Royal Victoria multi-storey car park in Seagull Lane has planning consent to be replaced by a residential development.
This would reduce the centre's parking capacity to 1,850 spaces, down from 3,350.
Peak parking demand for the largest events is more than 2,300 vehicles, according to the report, but it said this "would only occur on a small number of days per year".
A transport assessment also said mitigations such as public transport capacity improvements will reduce demands.
Cllr Joshua Garfield asked why the number of cycle spaces was only proposed to be 68.
Transport consultant for the applicant Victoria Porter said it had delivered on planning requirements for cycle parking.
She added: "There are measures agreed with Transport for London and Newham Council to monitor the demand for cycling, monitor the uptake for cycle parking and, if additional cycle parking is required, car parking spaces will be repurposed at the eastern end of the undercroft."
The committee unanimously approved the proposal and Mr Rees described the decision as a "key moment" for the ExCeL.
He added: "We are very proud to have contributed towards the regeneration of the Royal Docks over the past 20 years.
"As we look to the future, we want to ensure that ExCeL can continue to attract world-leading events that drive positive economic and social benefit throughout our local community and across London.”
The ExCeL said the expansion would create up to 115 new jobs and it would aim for half of these to be filled by Newham residents.
A further 130 jobs will also be created for the construction stage, with work set to begin next year.