Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a review of the body overseeing the regeneration of Old Oak Common, amid concerns that land transfer arrangements were not properly set up.
The move comes as the responsible authority, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, seeks greater powers to control planning in its area, by introducing an Article 4 direction to restrict office conversions.
The review has been put in place “to ensure Londoners reap the maximum benefits of the huge regeneration opportunity in this part of the capital”, according to the mayor’s office. Initially, that will clearly be looking at how to deliver the largest volume of genuinely affordable homes in the area.
In particular, it will take a close look at a Memorandum of Understanding, which was set up in March 2016 and under which the OPDC takes on ownership of the public land around the proposed new station. The mayor “wants to be reassured about the nature of the offer and is concerned about how much money it will cost to make the land viable for development”.
Amid the worries expressed publicly is that previous mayor Boris Johnson may not have carried out full due diligence checks, “particularly regarding existing land ownerships and other technical planning requirements”. There are concerns that the area gets the best contribution it can from the development of HS2.
Deputy mayor for housing James Murray commented: “Old Oak and Park Royal is one of the most important regeneration projects in London with scope to deliver tens of thousands of new homes and jobs. Although it will be the early 2020s before any significant numbers of new homes are built we need to act now to ensure this project benefits as many Londoners as possible, as quickly as possible. This review will take a detailed look at past decisions made by Boris Johnson and the future direction of the Development Corporation. We are particularly keen to hear from industry experts who can help us ensure that this scheme delivers maximum value for Londoners.”
The review also aims to look at how to include the views of local people, and the boroughs adjacent to the development corporation area, plus how infrastructure is funded. The mayor appears keen to ensure joined up planning that integrates well.
Meantime, the planned Article 4 direction is intended to remove the ability of developers to convert business space into residential. The OPDC says the area “is coming under increasing pressure for changes of use from office and industrial uses to residential”. Ultimately, if left unchecked, there are fears that vital regeneration land could see key buildings lost, reducing the benefits from regeneration. And, with Park Royal acting as a strategically important industrial hub for the capital, the OPDC wants to keep as much of this area in business use as possible, to allow for grater flexibility as businesses need to move from redevelopment sites.
The mayoral review is expected to be complete within two months, while OPDC’s consultation on its Article 4 direction will close on 11 July.
LPA Perspective: There has already been widespread criticism about the way Crossrail depots have been laid out in Old Oak Common, with suggestions they will interfere with future redevelopment plans. Khan is clearly taking stock, in an attempt to ensure no such accusations can be levelled at developments which take place on his watch.
As with key areas of central London, the government’s permitted developments experiment simply must not be allowed to muck up Old Oak Common. If key properties slip from commercial to residential use, the resulting residents could cause a headache in future, upsetting wider scale redevelopment in the area. This must not be allowed to happen.