• Old Oak gets under way

Plans to redevelop and regenerate a swathe of north west London have been approved. Earlier this month, mayor Boris Johnson signed off the planning framework for the Old Oak and Park Royal Opportunity Area.
One of 38 opportunity areas across London, identified by the mayor with major slugs of brownfield land suitable for redevelopment, the site will benefit from its position as a major new transport node when new rail links get built.
Johnson’s approved planning framework for the area made some small amendments following a public consultation. The framework includes 25,500 new homes, of which 24,000 are to be in a newly created urban neighbourhood, while 1,500 will be in existing non-industrial locations.
There will be a new railway station at Old Oak Common, which will act as an interchange between the new HS2 line, Crossrail and the existing national rail system. The expectation is that this hub could eventually see 250,000 passengers using it a day, bypassing central London termini.
Commercially, the intention is to create 55,000 jobs in Old Oak, and a further 10,000 in Park Royal – around 14% of Greater London’s employment needs up to 2031. At Old Oak, around 70% of the core sites are held by public bodies including Transport for London and Network Rail.
The plans are effectively split in half, based around the expected opening of the new Old Oak Common in 2026. “This will undoubtedly transform the area, giving Old Oak unparalleled local, regional and national transport connections,” says the report from the mayor’s office. “However, the GLA and OPDC are keen to ensure that, where feasible, development in the surrounding area is brought forward in advance of the opening.”
With this in mind, areas to the north east and south west are planned for redevelopment ahead of the station opening, and this will include the Car Gian site.
Alongside public ownership, one major local private landowner is vehicle retailer Car Giant, which has 46 acres at Old Oak Common. Working with developer London & Regional and designers PLP and Arup, it has proposed a new district to be called Old Oak Park, which could house one million sq ft of offices and 9,000 homes. A planning application is expected at the end of 2015.
Car Giant managing director Tony Mendes said in June: “We have a fantastic site with over a kilometre of canal, what will be the best transport connections in London and the best fibre optic network in the UK – here we can create something truly special – a new piece of London.” The company has rebuffed an approach from Queens Park Rangers, which had hoped to put a new 40,000 seater stadium within the redevelopment.
Mendes told the London Evening Standard: “While we are something of accidental developers, we feel a real sense of responsibility to deliver the homes and jobs that London needs.”
Sir Edward Lister, deputy mayor for planning and chairman of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, said: “London urgently needs new homes and commercial space to meet its ever growing population and there can be no doubt that the regeneration of Old Oak represents a real opportunity to meet those needs. This strategy will mean we can plan for the future of this vast site as we work to create a new, thriving and sustainable part of the capital, where people will love to live, work, play and visit.”
In September, Design Council Cabe was appointed to manage the design quality of the developments within the corporation’s area. it will set up and manage a PLACE (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering) Review Group. “This group will bring together an unprecedented breadth of expertise to support the OPDC in realising the potential of the most significant regeneration project in the UK,” promised Clare Devine, executive director of architecture, built environmment and design at the Design Council. “Specialists in public health, inclusion, SMART and culture will join experts in planning, built environment, and design. Together they will provide strategic advice to drive design excellence across all aspects of Old Oak and Park Royal to deliver social, economic and environmental benefit to enhance the lives of existing and future generations in London.”

LPA Perspective: The excitement of a development corporation taking control of an area must be tempered, in this case, by the long timescales envisaged. The danger is that the pace of development could be slow and incremental – it could also fall foul of the development cycle and a possible future downturn.
However, so long as the proposed HS2 rail system gets under way, then the timing of the arrival of the major new interchange station will be set. And history tells us that investment and development will inevitably follow that delivery of infrastructure.
With an imminent planning application from Car Giant, who has an established commercial developer partner alongside, we can expect to see private sector activity get under way before too long. There are also hopes that some innovative, “smart city” initiatives will also be included in the planning process, to ensure this part of London is well endowed with digital connectivity that prepares it better for the future.

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