Kennedy calls for Commonwealth Institute to become conference centre

Plans by Chelsfield Partners and the Ilchester Estate to renovate the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, which include provision for a 100,000 square foot events area called the Parabola, have come under fire as developers seek official approval.

The man who ran the centre’s conference operations until 2004, Paul Kennedy, MBE, has added his voice, in a personal capacity, to conservationists’ who are against the plans which include a major demolition and residential development.

Three years ago then Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell rejected a proposal to de-list the building in order to allow it to be demolished.

The new proposals provide for a new home of the Design Museum within the Parabola.

Kennedy launched the conference centre at the institute back in 1993 and ran a successful events business there until he left as MD in 2004.

“I believe a world-class conference and events business can be realised again (the venue was twice voted best UK conference centre and best value for money) with minimal changes of the architectural features of this Grade II listed building and site which sits within the Holland Park Conservation Area.”

Kennedy tells “The issue appears to be one of developmental economics, rather than a debate about the treatment of a listed building, which is of paramount import”.

Kennedy sees the claim that current plans are the only viable use for the site as both factually incorrect and believes also not tested.

“I am ready, in a personal capacity, to speak up against the planned development and for a new architectural approach which factors in a world-class conference and events centre, while protecting the original features of this listed building and site.”

Kennedy steps down from his position as group exhibitions director at Reed Travel Exhibitions in mid-August.

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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