Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum now designated

Logo as GIF 2The public consultation by the OPDC on designation of our forum ended on January 18th 2018.   Thanks to 112 supportive responses (and no objections) the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) approved designation of the forum on 8th February 2018.

Coupled with the designation in September of a 22 hectare Old Oak neighbourhood area, this means that the forum is finally a body with the legal powers to prepare a neighbourhood plan for the designated area.

A copy of the relevant OPDC report can be downloaded from the link below, and more information is available here from the OPDC website.

OPDC report on OONF designation

We would have welcomed decisions last autumn from OPDC and London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham to designate the whole of the 280 hectare area for which we had originally applied.   Of the respondents to this latest consultation, 33 people expressed disappointment that this had not happened.

We continue to believe that the OPDC Board and LBHF Council were unnecessarily cautious in the decisions they took to ‘refuse’ the proposals from our Forum.   Neighbourhood planning was introduced by the 2011 Localism Act to give local people more say in our national planning system.   There is growing recognition that this system is slow, disconnected from the views of most of the public,  and unresponsive to changing economic and market conditions.

OPDC planners are having to make very substantial revisions to the Corporation’s Draft Local Plan, following its ‘Regulation 19’ consultation last autumn.  There were many substantive objections to the OPDC’s 2017 Draft, from HS2, Transport for London, existing landowners as well as local groups including the Grand Union Alliance, Hammersmith Society and this Forum  OONF response to OPDC FINAL.

Our recent posts give more details of how the OPDC Local Plan has run into problems.  The forecast timetable for adoption of the final Local Plan has been delayed (again) until Spring 2019.  Given the significance of the changes to be made, a further round of statutory public consultation may be required.

Meanwhile London is recognised as having a ‘housing crisis’.   The new London Plan (out to consultation until March 2nd) promotes a range of ideas from the Mayor for getting more housing built.  The document invites all Londoners to become involved, while making little mention of neighbourhood planning.

A ‘Plan B’ for Old Oak?

What happens if London’s economy and housing market see big changes in the next two years?   The OPDC is drawing up its plans in a highly uncertain climate.  House values in neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea continue to fall fast, as happened a decade ago in the last serious recession.

We tried hard to persuade the OPDC Planning Committee to see the scope for a wider Old Oak neighbourhood plan as an opportunity, and not a threat.  We continue to believe that there may be a need for a Plan B for an Old Oak.  What if the proposed new Overground stations at Hythe Road and Old Oak Common lane do not get built?  Both remain unfunded aspirations.   What happens if the earlier ‘vision’ of a ‘Canary Wharf of the West’ is never realised, because of infrastructure costs that cannot made be met and past decisions that make overdecking of the HS2/Crossrail station unviable?

These are real questions, made clear in the responses from HS2 and others to the 2017 OPDC Draft Local Plan.

A way forward in such a scenario could be an ‘interim plan’ for Old Oak.  A plan that provided housing with a 10-15 year life on sites which otherwise risk being sterilised through planning blight or uncertainties on viability for development.

A plan that used the creativity and energies of a HS2 workforce in terms of self-build and an ‘instant neighbourhood’ which might not last more than a decade or two but which would provide opportunities for young Londoners to live and work in an area which might be a bit scruffy and impermanent, but which would meet their needs at a housing cost below what they could find elsewhere across London.  An Old Oak neighbourhood plan could provide the statutory framework for this sort of development to happen, flexibly and fast.

The origins of much of Old Oak lie in the workforce who came to build the Grand Union Canal and the rail lines, as major pieces of transport infrastructure which helped London become the global city that it is today.  These new arrivals created their own communities at that time.   As it happens, their ‘railway cottages’ and their streets, pubs and shops remain in place today despite the fact that this construction activity was largely unplanned and unregulated.

The map below shows (with a green boundary) the area which has been designated by OPDC as a neighbourhood area for which the newly designated forum will have the powers to prepare a neighbourhood plan.  It is about one tenth of what we asked for.  The attitude of planning professionals that ‘we know best’ prevailed.  The OPDC Planning Committee and Board (both with a majority of the appointed rather than the elected members) went along along with these recommendations.

Area designated by OPDC has green boundary. Old Oak Estate designated by LBHF has brown boundary. Original OONF proposed area in blue.
Area designated by OPDC has green boundary. Old Oak Estate designated by LBHF has brown boundary. Original OONF proposed area in blue.

We will do our best to make a difference, as ordinary residents of the area.  But it is uphill work, and any support would be welcome.  

Please get in touch by emailing oonforum@gmail.com if you wish to join the Forum as a member of an ‘affiliated member.’  There is no membership fee to join.

Background information

Since April 2015, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) has has had planning powers for the area within the red boundary on the map below.   This body is overseen by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

Blue line shows proposed boundary of Old Oak neighbourhood area

The chair of the OPDC Board is Liz Peace CBE.  The Board includes the Leaders of the Boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham along with a number of appointed members.

Current plans for a future Old Oak involve 24,500 new homes being built in the next couple of decades.  In Old Oak and neighbouring Park Royal, 55,000 new jobs are due to be created.

The OPDC is in the late stages of preparing a new Local Plan for Old Oak and Park Royal.  A first round of public consultation took place in early 2016.  A second round started on June 29th, and ended on September 11th 2017.  Details of the Draft Local Plan and the consultation exercise are at this link.

Neighbourhood forums are granted powers under the 2011 Localism Act to prepare a neighbourhood plan for their area.   When completed, these plans are voted on at a local referendum.  If supported by a majority of those voting, the policies in a neighbourhood plan become part of the statutory development plan for the area.  Future planning decisions then have to be in accordance with these policies.

 

We want the existing communities at Old Oak to be integrated successfully in what will be a whole new part of London.  We want the best examples of successful urban living across Europe to be followed.  We also want lessons to be learned from past unsuccessful regeneration projects in the UK.  The OPDC claims to want the same.  But when it comes to real ‘engagement’ of local people, its actions to date have spoken louder than its words.

Other pages on this website give more details of who we are, the story so far, and about the OPDC Local Plan.