What future for Old Oak?

Logo as GIF 2

 

 

 

Sessions of the London Assembly on June 11th and July 4th 2019 have shed some light on OPDC plans for the first phase of its ‘masterplan’ for Old Oak North.  OPDC Chair Liz Peace CBE and Interim Chief Executive David Lunts answered questions from Assembly Members.

During these sessions it emerged that the £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding awarded by Government to the OPDC last March remains subject to several ‘challenging’ conditions being met before the grant is paid.  Not least of these conditions is that the OPDC Draft Local Plan is supported by Planning Inspector Paul Clark.

The content of the OPDC’s HIF bid, and the conditions attached, have not been published and remain confidential.  The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum has been pursuing since March a FoI/EIR request with OPDC and GLA.  This request has so far been refused twice.   We have sent a further letter refining what documentation we most wish to see OONF to OPDC on EIR. July 2019 final and hope that the key HIF document is made available before we have to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.   

London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon has also asked the Mayor of London why this funding application cannot be made public.  See here.

Meanwhile the Mayor  has approved a further £10m budget from GLA resources (see MD2493) for OPDC to continue to carry out work on its plans for Old Oak North.   This adds to the £29m spent to date by OPDC since 2015.

At the final public session of the Examination of the OPDC Draft Local Plan on July 18th, the OPDC rejected a request from Cargiant for a 3 month pause while the two sides attempt to reach agreement on land that could be sold by Cargiant to OPDC without too much impact on Cargiant’s current operations.  

Given that the whole HS2 project was already being questioned at this time, in light of major forecast overspends, it is hard to see why a 3 month pause and period of dialogue would not have made sense.  But OPDC seemed determined to press on with its Draft Local Plan (already 3 years behind its original forecast adoption date).  In doing so, the GLA adds to the risk of spending further public money for no measurable long-term benefit.

In August, the Secretary of State for Transport announced an independent review of the HS2 project to be completed by the end of the year.  The terms of reference include the options of cancelling the project, or reducing its budget.   This includes the option of ending the line from Birmingham at Old Oak Common.

The most recent meeting of the Forum was on September 9th 2019.   An October meeting will be arranged if anything new happens, and if not we will revert to meeting on the first Tuesday of each month (November 5th) at the Collective at 18.30pm).

Background

Old Oak is a part of west London lying at the heart of the UK’s largest urban regeneration project.  It is the location of the planned HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line rail interchange, due for completion in 2026.

Since April 2015 the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) has been the planning authority for 650 hectares lying within the London Boroughs of Ealing, Brent, and Hammersmith & Fulham.   The OPDC is accountable to an appointed board, and ultimately to the Mayor of London.

Because of its future connectivity to the national rail system, Old Oak has been earmarked for many years as one of London’s major ‘opportunity areas’.   The rail interchange is seen as a catalyst for high density commercial and residential development, in the same way that the Olympic Park was created as the core of a new part of East London.

Back in 2015, a target of 24,000 new homes at Old Oak was set in the revised London Plan.  This target remains in the new Draft London Plan, and has reappeared in 3 successive draft versions of the Local Plan being prepared by the OPDC.   Many local people feel that this target was not based on adequate analysis of the development capacity of the area.

There is growing evidence that the housing densities required to meet an inadequately assessed housing target only be achieved through built forms (clusters of residential towers) that are at densities and heights well above London norms, and closer to the extremes at Isle of Dogs (Isle of Dogs in East London is another Mayoral Opportunity Area, where 6 of the tallest residential buildings in Western Europe now have planning permission at 57-75 storeys).

When coupled with an already congested road network, local people have problems envisaging a future Old Oak with  ‘development that will pioneer international excellence in sustainability, health and wellbeing and design quality to deliver tangible benefits for both local communities and London’ (OPDC ‘Our Spatial Vision’ from Draft Regulation 19 Local Plan) The aim of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum is that existing residents in the area have at least a modest say in the future of this part of London.

Much of Old Oak has remained as industrial and railway land, bisected by the Grand Union Canal.   In 2015 a group of local residents associations in the area came together as an ‘interim’ neighbourhood forum.  Our aim was to achieve designation of a 280 hectare Old Oak neighbourhood area, and to prepare a neighbourhood plan which would help to integrate the existing residential settlements within and around the edge of the OPDC boundary.

After many months of discussion with the Corporation and with Hammersmith & Fulham Council, both these planning authorities rejected the boundary we had proposed (shown in blue on the map below).  In September 2017, the OPDC designated a much reduced 22 hectare are in East Acton (see green boundary below).  Hammersmith and Fulham Council designated a separate (but nearby) boundary as the old Oak Estate neighbourhood area (see brown boundary below).

Details of the reasons for these decisions, as published by each authority, can be found here and here.  Following a further designation application, the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum was designated in February 2018.  This body has the legal powers to prepare a neighbourhood plan for the 22 hectare area that includes the Wesley Estate, the Island site (TITRA railway cottages), Midland Terrace/Shaftesbury Gardens and Wells House Road.

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

No organisation has yet come forward to apply for designation as an Old Oak Estate Neighbourhood Forum, in Hammersmith & Fulham.  This area remains one of two ‘orphan’ neighbourhood areas in the Borough.

The original proposals for a much larger Old Oak neighbourhood were well supported by local residents in the 2017 public consultation carried out by OPDC and LBHF in mid 2017.   The Forum held its inaugural meeting in May 2018.  Its membership remains open to ‘full members’ (i.e. those who live or work within the 22 hectare boundary) and to ‘affiliate members’ (those who joined the earlier interim forum and others across this part of West London who take an interest in the future of Old Oak).

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

Other pages on this website give more details of who we are and the story so far.