Capital & Counties (Capco) has denied it agreed to hand back the housing estates at the centre of its controversial Earls Court scheme to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, despite a claim from the council’s leader that such a deal was struck almost five months ago.

Residents of Earls Court protesting Capco’s plans for their homes before the developer demolished the iconic exhibition centre

Councillor Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham, has written to local residents to inform them he has asked Capco to stick to the agreement he claims was made in March between himself and Capco’s chief executive Ian Hawksworth.

In the letter to residents, seen by Property Week, Cowan wrote: “On 2 March 2018 Capco’s chief executive told the council that the Capco board had agreed that it is in the best interest of both Capco and the council to return the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates, Gibbs Green School and Farm Lane to the council. I have written to the Capco board urging them to stick to this statement and do so quickly.”

However, a spokeswoman for Capco said Cowan’s claim that such a deal was struck was not true.

“The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham have expressed interest in pursuing alternative options for the estates” said the spokeswoman. ”Capco continues to engage with LBHF and other stakeholders in relation to future plans for the estates. In the meantime, the conditional  land sale agreement, a binding agreement entered into with LBHF in relation to the estates in 2013, remains in place.”

In response to Capco’s denial, a spokesman for Hammersmith & Fulham said the council maintained the text of the letter was accurate and that Capco had agreed to hand the estates back during the March meeting.

Cowan added the council would return funds already paid to it by Capco in return for cancelling the conditional land sale agreement.

“All the money we would need to do this remains ready and can be released with 10 days’ notice,” Cowan wrote.

The Labour leader, who took the helm of the council in June 2014 after the previous Conservative administration had approved CapCo’s plans for the 77-acre site and the demolition of the two housing estates, added: “For nearly ten years now, thousands of residents who live on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates have suffered too much uncertainty and worry about the future of their homes. We think it’s right that we end that. I hope the Capco board share that sentiment and act with expediency to do so.”

£450m of writedowns

Last week, Capco revealed another £52m loss in value at Earls Court, bringing total writedowns at the scheme to more than £450m since 2016.

The group, which is currently considering a demerger to split its two core holdings at Covent Garden and Earls Court into two separately listed businesses, reported the latest writedown in its half year results for the six months to the end of June.

Capco reported Earls Court is now valued at £707m, 7% down since the end of December 2017 when it was valued at £759m. Last year, the group posted a 20% fall in the scheme’s value to £1.1bn, from £1.4bn. The latest devaluation takes into account the £250m sale of the Empress State Building which sits on the site.