Viability of OPDC Local Plan questioned by Inspector

Planning Inspector Paul Clark published on September 16th an ‘interim report’ on his Examination of the OPDC Draft Local Plan.   This followed the public session of the Examination on July 18th, at which Cargiant and OPDC argued their differing views on the viability and realism of major housing development on Cargiant’s landholdings at Old Oak North.   The Inspector’s report can be found here id-33_interim_findings_on_viability_of_cargiant_site_allocation

The Inspector has generally sided with Cargiant’s documentation and arguments on the complex land valuation issues involved and has concluded that compulsory purchase of OPDC land and/or ‘extinguishment’ of the Cargiant business is not the right way forward.  He has therefore removed much of the Cargiant land from the Draft Local Plan, and directed that the housing and employment targets in the OPDC Local Plan be reduced accordingly. 

Cargiant’s view of events can be found at the link below.   They have repeated their earlier view that OPDC is wasting large sums of public money on an ill-conceived set of plans for Old Oak and that “It is now time to stop throwing good money after bad.”   PressStatement.EiP.19.09.17.ISSUED.jp[39376]

This set of decisions by the Inspector will require further major revisions to the Draft Local Plan, on top of other ‘major modifications’ that have emerged during the Examination.   Another round of public consultation on the Plan will be needed (the fourth).   OPDC still hope to see the Local Plan adopted in the early part of 2020 but this is looking increasingly unlikely. 

During the London Assembly sessions at which OPDC Chair Liz Peace and Interim Chief Executive David Lunts answered questions, 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.

 

 

London Assembly session on OPDC

On July 4th 2019, the regular ‘Plenary’ session of the London Assembly focused on the work of the OPDC.  These sessions are an opportunity for Assembly members to ask questions about the various bodies responsible to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

A webcast of the session can be viewed on the London Assembly website.  The lead questioners at the session were Assembly Members Navin Shah (Labour), Sian Berry (Green Party) and Tony Devenish (Conservative). Other Assembly Members asked supplementary questions.

Liz Peace (OPDC Board Chair) and David Lunts (OPDC Interim Chief Executive) answered the questions.

The main points that emerged from the session were:

  • confirmation of what was said about the proposed new Overground stations at Hythe Road and old Oak Common Lane, at the June 11th session of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee.   Both these stations, which feature as part of the Transport strategy in the OPDC Draft Local Plan, are not funded within TfL programmes.
  • Liz Peace said that TfL Transport staff had told her some time ago that there was no adequate business case for the Hythe Road station.  That proposed for Old Oak Common Lane has slightly more prospect of ever being built, given its potential role in West London Orbital plans.
  • David Lunts claimed that even without these stations the future Old Oak would remain ‘an incredibly well connected place‘ where no one will need to walk more than 10 minutes to a station.
  • Liz Peace said that following a meeting with the Mayor, Sadiq Kahne would be making a Mayoral decision to release further funds to OPDC to allow it to progress its delivery plans for Old Oak North ‘Phase 1A (the proposed northern link road from the Oaklands site to Scrubs Lane, and associated housing plots).
  • David Lunts will increase the time spent on his OPDC role from 2 days to 4 days, while remaining GLA Executive Director for Housing and Land.
  • When asked what OPDC had achieved to date, David Lunts cited the £250m HIF funding agreed by Government, and planning permissions granted for 3,500 new homes.  The fact that none of the permissions granted for developments along Scrubs Lane have started on site was not mentioned.
  • The conditions attached to the £250m HIF grant were raised.  It known that the main condition is adoption of the OPDC Local Plan.  Assembly Members would like to have more detail.  Liz Peace and David Lunts said that it was MHCLG and Homes England that were insisting that details were commercially confidential and the relevant documents could not be released.
  • Meanwhile the GLA is being expected to ‘underwrite’ the entire £250m, in the event of OPDC failing to the conditions or the timescales for HIF spend.
  • When questioned on how much of Cargiant’s land was needed to meet OPDC’s detailed plans for Phase 1A, David Lunts gave 25% of the total as the current estimate.  He said that most of the area concerned was ‘non-operational’ and not critical to Cargiant’s business.
  • Liz Peace gave a ‘personal view’ that in the event of HS2 being cancelled by an incoming Prime Minister, it would be hard to see a continued justification for OPDC’s role as a development corporation.

Cargiant circulated a briefing to Assembly Members prior to the Plenary session Letter.19.06.14.LondonAssembley.BPcomm (002).  This sets out their view on why the firm will strongly resist efforts to acquire parts of their land via compulsory purchase.

Following the session, Cargiant issued a press statement saying that the OPDC strategy is “completely flawed” and calling for the OPDC to “pull their heads out of the sand”.   See at PressStatement.19.07.04.ISSUED.jp.

The briefing note that OONF had provided to selected Assembly Members prompted some questions and comment about OPDC’s approach to community engagement and the role of the OPDC Community Review Group.

Liz Peace said that the content of the OONF note was ‘misleading’ but did not explain in what respects.  These concerns of local residents and community groups are being followed up with various Assembly Members who are taking an interest.   See Note for London Assembly members from OONF.June 2019 V3

The fact that new Overground stations are not realistic propositions has significant implications for housing densities and building heights at Old Oak.  Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTAL) will be lower than the map included in the current OPDC Draft Local Plan.  We have asked that a revised ‘Future PTAL’ map is made available for the Planning Inspector’s final public hearing session on July 18th.

 

 

London Assembly sessions and OONF briefing

The London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee held a session in June 11th at which OPDC Board Chair Liz Peace and Interim Chief Executive David Lunts were questioned on the work of the Corporation to date and its future plans.

The session can be viewed online at this link .  Some important information emerged in the answers given to the committee.

Liz Peace explained that the proposed new Overground station at Hythe Road is ‘absolutely off the agenda’ and that the second station at Old Oak Common Lane/Victoria Road is still a possibility but with its probability ‘very slight’.

The £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding awarded to OPDC by Government in March 2019 ‘is not in the bank’ and remains subject to many conditions.  The most important of these is adoption of the OPDC Local Plan.   The Inspector has yet to conclude public hearings (last one scheduled for July 18th) and adoption of the Plan is not expected before early 2020.  This is three years later than was forecast in the 2015 Old Oak and Park Royal Opportunity Area Planning Framework.

OPDC has for the time being stalled its efforts to recruit a permanent new chief executive officer.  David Lunts will continue in this post as a part time interim.

None of this information has been announced by OPDC in press releases or public reports to the OPDC Board.   The implications of the Overground Stations not being built are significant.  Local Plan maps showing levels of public transport accessibility (PTAL) across the OPDC area are no longer accurate.  Proposed housing densities at Old Oak North are even more extreme and even less justifiable.

Cargiant responded to the June 11th committee session by sending a letter to Assembly members pointing out serious inaccuracies in several of the statements made by OPDC.  This Cargiant letter can be downloaded here Letter.19.06.14.LondonAssembley.BPcomm (002)

The Assembly’s Plenary session on July 4th will include a further Q and A session between all Assembly members and Liz Peace and David Lunts.  This session at City Hall is open to the public and starts at 10.00 am.

The Forum has put together and circulated a briefing note for Assembly Members.  This gives the background to the Forum’s experiences over the past 3 years.  The note focuses on OPDC’s efforts at consultation and ‘community engagement’ and why many local residents have found these to be inadequate and unsatisfactory.  A copy of the note can be downloaded here Note for London Assembly members from OONF.June 2019 V3

We wait to see what further information will result from this Plenary session of the London Assembly.   It is clear that there are growing questions about the way in which OPDC has approached its remit from the Mayor, and its preparation of a Draft Local Plan.  The list of ‘challenges’ facing the Corporation increases by the day.

 

Extra EIP hearing on June 6th 2019

At the adjournment of the Examination in Public of the OPDC Local Plan, back in mid April, Planning Inspector Paul Clark fixed an additional day’s hearing.  This was needed to consider further legal submissions by OPDC and by Cargiant/London & Regional Properties on the contested subject of the adequacy of the series of Integrated Impact Assessments published by OPDC during the course of its Local Plan.

It is well established law that Local Plans must be accompanied by a strategic environmental assessment of the impact of the Plan’s proposals.  This legal requirement emanates from the European Union, and was translated into UK law by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004. 

In the case of the OPDC Local Plan, the Development Corporation has produced a series of Integrated Impact Assessments.  These include what it considers to be adequate SEA material to meet the Regulations.

Cargiant take a different view.  In an initial legal Opinion, David Elias QC has argued that the OPDC has failed to consider and identify in a transparent manner reasonable alternatives to the main strategic policies in its plan.  Further deficiencies are also identified.

As a result, David Elias considers that the draft plan is unlawful due to the failure to comply with the requirements of the SEAR, has also failed to comply with guidance in the PPG (MHCLG Planning Practice Guidance) and cannot therefore lawfully proceed in its current form.

OPDC has responded in a lengthy document which includes an Opinion from Paul Brown QC and Richard Moules.   This asserts that the housing and employment targets in the OPDC Local Plan were ‘decided’ back in 2015 in the Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP) and the Old Oak and Park Royal Opportunity Area Framework (OAPF) both of which were subject to their own sustainability appraisals.

For this reason, this response from the Corporation argues that as a matter of OPDC’s reasonable plan-making judgment, there were no reasonable alternatives to the spatial strategy and quantum of housing and employment that would have been consistent with the FALP and OAPF.

Cargiant provided the Inspector, shortly before the hearing, with a further Opinion.  This argues (amongst other things) that  Neither the FALP nor the OAPF decided the spatial strategy and quantum of housing and employment land for inclusion in the draft plan.  It also points out that there was no OPDC consultation document which explained the position now taken by OPDC that there were no reasonable alternatives to its 24,000 homes and 55,000 jobs target for Old Oak.

OONF strongly supports the argument that OPDC has incorrectly (and unwisely) insisted on staying with its original jobs and homes targets despite many changes in the planning context for Old Oak.  We have made this point in our representations on all three versions of the Draft Local Plan.  We have flagged up the way in which proposed density levels (and resultant building heights) have increased to unacceptable levels as the amount of land at Old Oak that is available for housing has shrunk.

At the hearing on June 6th, we pointed out that when Hammersmith & Fulham Council was preparing its own Local Plan in 2015, before OPDC took over planning responsibility for Old Oak, the Council’s Draft Plan offered  alternative approaches to regeneration of the area.   These included higher and lower densities, and the option of waiting until new transport infrastructure was in place before encouraging new development.  In our view these were reasonable (and very sensible) alternative options.

 

The Inspector will be provided with further information from Cargiant and OPDC before making his decisions on whether OPDC have met the necessary legal requirements.  He has already described this issue as one of two ‘potential show stoppers’ to the OPDC’s timetable for adoption of the Local Plan.

At the end of the June 6th discussions, the Inspector gave some hints that OPDC could perhaps remedy previous shortcomings by the publication of further Integrated Impact Assessment documentation.  There are a number of legal judgments on whether a failure of process on Local Plan preparation can be remedied after the statutory consultation stages, so this may not prove a possible outcome.

Copies of the three legal Opinions are published on the OPDC website along with other Examination documents, and can be downloaded at the links above.

The Local Plan EIP hearings in April 2019

These public hearings took place from 2nd April to the 15th April and were held at the offices of London Councils in Southwark Street.   We and other local organisations complained to OPDC about the distance of this location from the area covered by the Local Plan.  While convenient for OPDC staff, the venue involved a journey across London for local residents who wished to attend.

Despite this, many residents and community groups did come along to one or more sessions.  The Grand Union Alliance had a ‘hot seat’ at the table for all the hearing days.  This allowed Robin Brown from Just Space to contribute evidence on many topics, and for other local residents to provide input on their own particular concerns.

The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum gave evidence on several issues:

  • the way in which OPDC has defined all the detailed policies for each of the 12 ‘Places’ in the Draft Plan as being ‘strategic’ rather than ‘non-strategic’. This blocks the scope for variation of policies within any neighbourhood plan and (in our view) is contrary to national guidance and hence an ‘unsound’ approach for a Local Plan.
  • The Draft Plan’s lack of openness on housing density and building heights, and the extreme density of 600 housing units/hectares proposed for Old Oak North in the supporting study Old Oak North Development Framework Principles
  • The OPDC’s inflexible approach in resisting any mixed use in the large part of the OPDC area designated as SIL (Strategic Industrial Locations) thereby blocking any housing of any kind  in areas where mixed use and co-location (with no loss of employment floorspace) could increase vitality and reduce the need for commuting.

Copies of our Written Statements on these issues, as provided to the Inspector, can be downloaded via links in our February 2019 post.

As the Inspector chairing the sessions, Paul Clark seemed willing to listen to views and evidence from community organisations and individual residents. We hope that we gave a good account of ourselves.  Apart from Cargiant, few developers/landowners attended to make representations.

The planning consultant for QPR made some contributions.   There was no sign of planning officers from Hammersmith & Fulham.  LB Brent contributed on some specialist sustainability issues.  Friends of Wormwood Scrubs (FOWWS) set out the legal position on protection of he Scrubs as Metropolitan Land and the parameters of 1879 Wormwood Scrubs Act.

At the last session before adjournment, we explained the difficulties for local people resulting from the lack of clear information in the Draft Local Planon what exactly is proposed for Old Oak North (the first intended phase of development).   The Inspector has himself asked for further substantive information from OPDC on this subject.

The Inspector also explained at the hearings that the outcome of his Examination may be a set of ‘minor modifications’ which could be made by OPDC, enabling the Local Plan to proceed to adoption.  If he considers that ‘major modifications’ are needed, this would require a further (fourth) round of public consultation.   We think this latter outcome is quite likely, given the extent of change to the context for the Local Plan since OPDC first embarked on its preparation.

We have submitted a FoI/EiR request to OPDC for sight of the Corporation’s autumn 2018 application to central government for Housing Infrastructure funding.   The sum of £250m has been awarded (in March 2019) and we would like to know how this will be applied.  So would Cargiant.

Our FoI request has been refused  (see at 150419 OPDCCOO-Letter_to_HenryPeterson) and we have asked for this decision to be reviewed OONF follow up on FoI April 2019.final.

We cannot see why a funding application to central government from a public body such as the Corporation should not be available to the public.  Any commercial content that is genuinely sensitive can be redacted.  We will appeal to the Information Commissioner if OPDC does not release the documentation.

The closing date for applications for the post of OPDC Chief Executive Officer is 1st May.   Details are in this pack 66367_Candidate_Brief_FINAL.   The ‘competitive salary package’ is not disclosed.  The information about the position includes a ‘Company Overview‘ whereas the OPDC is a public body expensively funded via the London Mayor’s precept on London’s Council Tax payers, as Cargiant has pointed out in its press releases.

Meanwhile David Lunts (GLA Executive Director of Housing and Land) is acting as Interim Chief Executive on a part time basis, with Tom Cardis as Interim Director of Planning.  We will post a further update once a date for a final session of the EIP hearings is known, and when the further information provided by OPDC is published.

Cargiant versus OPDC – what future now for ‘Old Oak North’?

On 7th February 2019, Cargiant issued a press release and wrote to members of the OPDC Board calling for:

1. An immediate halt to all further spending and consultant appointments;
2. An immediate halt to the CPO process which will see 150 business and over 1,000 jobs lost from the area; and
3. A full inquiry into the spending and strategy of the OPDC, including the open publication of the bid for £250 million of Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) money so this can be properly scrutinised to see if it represents value for money.

Cargiant are the landowners for 46 acres of land at Hythe Road NW10 from which they operate the UK’s largest ‘car processing’ operation.  Since 2014 the company has partnered with London and Regional  Properties and has been preparing a masterplan for a major development at Old Oak Park.

The plans for this development went through 4 rounds of consultation in which local community groups and members of OONF were involved.  We had assumed during 2018 that Cargiant and OPDC were holding detailed pre-application discussions and that an outline planning application would surface early in 2019.

Now it seems that this was not from the case.  It seems that OPDC told Cargiant to stop work on their masterplan in late 2017.  OPDC had its own team of masterplanners, led by AECOM, working up its own detailed proposals for Old Oak North.

The dispute between Cargiant and OPDC is a deep one, with allegations of false promises and bad faith.   This article in the Estates Gazette gives a view from both sides Tony Mendes v Liz Peace.

Cargiant explained their position at the OONF and GUA meeting on March 5th.  They intend to continue and expand their existing business.                    (see at Cargiant.BriefingSheet.Feb2019) and to fight off OPDC proposals for compulsory purchase of slices of their land where this makes their operation unviable.   Their earlier plans for relocating their entire operation they say are no longer viable, as a result of delays at the OPDC end.

These events have big implications for the current examination of the OPDC Draft Local Plan.  This is being carried out by Planning Inspector Paul Clark MA MRTPI MCMI.  Public hearings are due to start on April 2nd.  Cargiant will be giving evidence, as will OONF and the Grand Union Alliance along with other community groups.

How is the Inspector to assess the ‘soundness’ and ‘effectiveness’ of a Draft Local Plan which (in its latest Regulation 19.2 version) relies very heavily on Old Oak North as the first phase of major housing development?   How can the proposed ambitious housing targets (and extreme densities) for this area be assessed when the major landowner now has a very different view of the future of the site?

Coupled with this is the continuing lack of decision by Government on the bid by OPDC for £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funds (essential to meet costs of infrastructure and land assembly).   Funding for the  ‘potential’ new Overground stations at Hythe Road and Old Oak Common Lane remains similarly uncertain, with Transport for London now cash-strapped by delays on completion of the Crossrail/Queen Elizabeth Line.

The public sessions of the Examination of the OPDC Draft Local Plan will get interesting.  These being held at the offices of London Councils in Southwark Street, starting on April 2nd.  For more details see this OPDC web page on the examination process.

OONF will be giving evidence at the hearings.  Apart from the representations submitted previously at each stage of the Local Plan consultation, three further ‘written statements’ have been submitted to the Examiner.

OONF and StQW statement on Matter 4 (density, housing targets, heights)

StQW and OONF Hearing Statement on Matter 5 (tall buildings)

OONF Written Statement Matter 13 (Strategic Industrial land and the case for mixed use areas between Wormwood Scrubs and Park Royal.

Anyone wishing to have the chance to speak at the EIP hearings should get in touch at oonforum@gmail.com.   The Grand Union Alliance will have a ‘hot seat’ at the hearings at which local community groups can give evidence.  Such evidence need to be well focused on a specific ‘Matter’ under discussion, rather than a general objection to the Local Plan.  Members of the public can observe and listen at any time.

 

 

 

What’s new in 2019?

It is now nearly four years since the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation started life on April 1st 2015.  A moment for reflection.

The Draft Local Plan is due to be ‘examined in public’ in April 2019.  The first salvos in this process have been fired.  The appointed Inspector is Paul Clark MA MRTPI MCMI.   As the process requires, he has sent the OPDC a set of ‘initial questions’.  The OPDC planners have responded to these.

We hope that the Inspector will prove robust in his questioning of the key elements of the Local Plan, and particularly the Corporation’s decisions to stick rigidly with a 25,500 housing target with consequential ‘super densities’ proposed.

Our Forum regularly raises the issue of planned housing densities at a new Old Oak.   The average figure of 600 units per hectare proposed for ‘Old Oak North’ we believe to be a UK first (other than perhaps Isle of Dogs) and more akin to built forms in Hong Kong and Shanghai.   As a comparison, the new draft spatial plan for Greater Manchester has just been published, with a proposed maximum density of 200 units/hectare in city centre locations and 120 homes per hectare in designated town centres.

Meetings of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum and Grand Union Alliance

The Forum’s most recent meetings have been on November 8th 2018 and January 8th 2o19.  This latter meeting was held jointly with the Grand Union Alliance and was very well attended with 60-70 residents present.

The easiest way to catch up with discussions at these meetings is to check out the slide presentations.  These are posted on our Newsletters and Meeting Notes page.

OPDC Consultations

OPDC is consulting on three Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs).  These cover specific issues, and are formal documents which support the Local Plan.

One of these covers ‘planning obligations’.  The are the financial contributions made by developers, via Section 106 Agreements ad the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).  There was discussion at our January 8th meeting on why it is that OPDC has declined to date to start charging CIL payments from developers and successful planning applicants.

This means that no CIL contributions have been raised from the series of tall towers at North Action, as approved since 2015.  Nor for the three schemes along Scrubs Lane (on which there is still no sign of construction starting on site).

Given the existing and potential impact of these schemes, particularly those at North Acton, local residents are concerned that developers are not being required to meet the Government’s CIL levy.  CIL is designed to provide funds for the infrastructure costs that accompany new development, in terms of public realm, roads, schools and health facilities.

The result of a ‘no charging’ regime by both OPDC and LB Ealing means that nothing has been collected to make up the  ‘neighbourhood pot’ that would normally be available for local communities to have their say on infrastructure and other priorities.

Of all CIL payments made to a London planning authority, 15% of the total is designated as Neighbourhood CIL. These resources are intended by Government to be allocated in consultation with local people.  OPDC and Ealing are two out of only four authorities in London which have yet to start collecting CIL.   Whereas in Brent, the total CIL amassed is substantial, and the Neighbourhood element runs to several millions over the 2017-20 period.

The other two SPDs cover Daylight and Overheating in High Density Development, and Waste Management in High Development.  Anyone who has lived in a high rise flat knows the risks that disposal of rubbish (including food waste) can become a major problem.

At the consultation session on January 19th at the Collective in Old Oak Road, attendance of the public was limited to four residents.  OPDC officers explained their determination to come up with ‘state of the art’ solutions on both waste disposal and the overheating problems that can affect very tall buildings.

The worry for the public is that it will be LB Ealing, Brent, and Hammersmith & Fulham councils which will be collecting waste from the developments in their separate parts of the  OPDC area.  Each uses different methods and refuse vehicles.  OPDC hope that joined up arrangements can be agreed.  But even if this is acheieved, the densities and building heights proposed will present major challenges.   There will be a lot of rubbish to be shifted, and disposal by residents themselves of discarded furniture and ‘bulky items’ will not be straightforward in new developments destined to be ‘car-free’.

There is a further consultation taking place at All Souls Church in Harlesden on 5 February 2019 at 18.00.

 

Changes at the OPDC and a new Community Review Group

New members for the OPDC Board and Planning Committee

The Development Corporation has ‘refreshed’ the membership of its Board and Planning Committee.  A press release at this link gives the details.

When Liz Peace took on the role of chair of the Board, she made clear that she wanted more people on the Board with experience of London’s development industry.

 

The OPDC press release starts by saying The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has appointed nine leading industry experts to join the Board and Planning Committee.

Mini biographies of those newly appointed can be seen at a separate page on the OPDC website at this link.   We local residents and businesses can form our own conclusions on whether these individuals are the right people to be progressing the next stages of regeneration and development at Old Oak.

The Board membership continues to include the Leaders of the three councils from the area where the Development Corporation has been the planning authority since April 2015 (the Boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham).  This is the sole element of democratic accountability on the Board.  All other members (the majority) are appointed by the Mayor.

Members of the Board who have served a three year term, and who have not been re-appointed, include Eric Sorensen and Amanda Souter.

Amanda is the longstanding chair of the Wells House Residents Association.   She has been active for several years in trying to extract information from HS2 on the details of their plans.  Since 2015 she has been one of several people active locally in representing to the OPDC the views of those who live and work in and around the OPDC area.

Amanda applied to join the OPDC Board back in 2015, and was appointed with a clear brief as the ‘community representative’ on the Board.   In the recent appointment process for Board members, she re-applied but her candidacy was rejected.   It appears from the interview process that her knowledge and experience of the development and property world was not sufficient to qualify her as a ‘leading industry expert’.

The new board has no designated community representative.  Two of the new Board members have a connection with the local area (one living within it and another working within it).   It remains to be seen to what extent they feel they should be feeding into the Board the views and ideas of those whose lives will be most affected by the next two decades of development at Old Oak.

This change in the Board’s composition is striking, given that the 2016 Review of the OPDC commissioned by Sadiq Khan specifically recommended that Support for business and community Board members must be provided to enable them to properly represent their constituent groups.   Two years on, the OPDC’s response has been to abolish the community representative position altogether.

Changes on the OPDC Planning Committee

Membership of the OPDC Planning Committee has also changed.   Four councillors from the three Boroughs remain as members (with two from Hammersmith, this being the area most affected by new development).  Will McKee remains as chair, with three independent members (Gordon Adams continuing, and Karen Cooksley and Sandra Fryer as new members).   Mini biographies are at this link.

The chair of the Planning Committee has a casting vote on the Planning Committee.  So even if all four elected councillors vote against a specific planning application, this is no guarantee of refusal.

Past efforts to achieve more local input on planning decisions

During two years of discussion and negotiation with OPDC officers (including a presentation to the Planning Committee) our ‘interim’ neighbourhood forum made the case for the eastern part of the OPDC area to be designated as a ‘neighbourhood area’ under the 2011 Localism Act.  The boundary that we proposed, after many meetings of the forum, included the residential areas of College Park and the Old Oak Estate, in north Hammersmith, along with the site of the Linford Christie Stadium on Wormwood Scrubs.

The decisions made on our application, by the OPDC Planning Committee and Board and by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, shrunk the proposed neighbourhood area from 190 hectares an area of 22 hectares in East Acton ward of LB Ealing.  This was despite a 6 week public consultation in which a sizable majority supported our original proposals.

The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum was formally designated by the OPDC in February 2018.  Our efforts since then have focused on responding to further consultation on the OPDC Draft Local Plan (see below and previous posts).

The new OPDC Community Review Group

The OPDC has taken a new tack in recent months, by setting up a ‘Community Review Group’ which will review proposed developments at pre-application stage.

This is welcome step towards greater involvement of local people in the design of new developments.  The new group will operate alongside to the Place Review Group which OPDC already uses to seek views on planning applications from selected planning and architectural professionals.

The Community Review Group is made up of 12 people who responded to an OPDC advertisement this summer.  This Handbook explains how the Group will work and lists its membership.

This is a novel form of public involvement in the planning process, and there are questions to be asked about the relative weight to be given to the views of the Group, as compared with representations on applications submitted by individuals or community organisations such as this Forum.

Latest on the OPDC Draft Local Plan

This Draft Local Plan has yet to be ‘examined in public’ by a Planning Inspector.  No date has yet been fixed for this public hearing.   This is the last stage in the process of plan preparation, after which the final version (as modified by the Inspector) will be adopted by the Development Corporation.  The Plan’s policies and site allocations will then be applied when planning applications are decided.

The Forum continues to believe that the OPDC Draft Local Plan has many flaws.  The most fundamental of these flow from the over-ambitious and unrealistic targets for housing and jobs that have remained fixed in the Plan since the publication of a first version in February 2016.

These targets were first set in a 2015 review of the London Plan.  Very little evidence to support them was provided at that stage, but the OPDC has treated them as set in stone.

Much else changed in the second ‘Regulation 19’ Local Plan submitted by the OPDC to the Secretary of State.   It has become clear that development of a ‘Canary Wharf of the West’ and a major commercial office and retail hub above and around the HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line station is not feasible with the ‘plan period’ of 2018-2038

So forget large parts of the glossy videos and inter-active maps of the original ‘vision’ for ‘Old Oak South’ and ‘Old Oak High Street’ which we were shown over the past two years.  The focus now is on the Cargiant land as the first phase of likely significant development, and a new ‘Park Road’ between Scrubs Lane and the Oaklands housing development being built by Genesis/QPR on Old Oak Lane.

This image below is the latest that has become available of the OPDC ‘masterplan’ as seen looking eastwards from above North Acton.

OPDC masterplan 2018 showing revised proposals for Old Oak South
OPDC masterplan 2018 showing revised proposals for Old Oak South

The target of a minimum of 25,500 new homes  at Old Oak/Park Royal remains set in the new Draft London Plan, prepared by London Mayor Sadiq Khan over the past 18 months.  This new Plan will undergo an Examination in Public with public hearings in January – May 2019.  There are many London-wide bodies which will be questioning these targets at the hearings, and OONF is liaising with these.

Meanwhile the number of planning applications for major schemes on sites within the OPDC area has diminished over the past year, reflecting the current weak state of the London property market (commercial and residential).  There are no new applications to be considered by the OPDC Planning Committee at its 10th December meeting.

Proposed schemes in Scrubs Lane (‘North Kensington Gate’ and ‘Mitre Yard’) now have full planning permission granted.  Both are listed as ‘not commenced’ in the Planning Committee agenda, along with Imperial College’s scheme for student housing at the former Perfume Factory.  The scheme at 2 Scrubs Lane, previously approved, is back in pre-application discussions.

For the very major scheme for 6,500 new homes at Old Oak Park (the Cargiant/London & Regional Properties landholding) the status update as reported to the Planning Committee is Pre-application discussions expected to recommence shortly.  This has been the case for the past year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn 2018 update on OPDC proposals

During 2018, the Board of the OPDC has found it necessary to make significant changes to its plans.   Responses to the consultation on its 19.1 Draft Local Plan, as submitted by HS2, Transport for London, and major landowners identified insuperable obstacles to early development of ‘Old Oak South’ (the area around the planned HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line interchange).

As a result, any plans and policies for this part of the OPDC area have been removed from the version of the Local Plan as submitted to the Secretary of State in October 2018.   The focus for early development is now on ‘Old Oak North’, the area made up of the Cargiant/London and Regional Properties landholding along with Scrubs Lane.

This is the area for which a consortium commissioned by OPDC (and led by AECOM) has been carrying out detailed masterplanning.  This work has included costing of major infrastructure proposals and testing of transport routes and development capacity.

The public were originally told that information on this masterplanning exercise would be made available in late 2017.  No such information has emerged, albeit that some of the results of the AECOM work have been fed into one of the ‘supporting studies’ for the Local Plan.

This is a document entitled Old Oak North Development Framework Principles.   As a ‘supporting study’ the document offers ‘planning guidance’ but does not form part of the draft statutory development plan.  But as we have found with the previous ‘Development Principles’ document for Scrubs Lane, the OPDC Planning Committee will no doubt treat these ‘principles’ as ’emerging policy’ and will place reliance on them when deciding planning applications at Old Oak North.

The section of this document dealing with development capacity (page 47) explains that the masterplan work identifies a total development capacity of 7,300 news homes and 73,000 sqm (Net Internal Area) of economic floorspace.  It goes on to say The development capacity of Old Oak North will result in the delivery of a range high densities across this place. The average density will be 600 units per hectare. This will vary across the place in response to public transport access, sensitive locations and site specific circumstances. These densities are of a scale that have only recently been delivered in London and will contribute to the form of a new London typology.

The reference to densities of a scale only recently delivered in London we believe to relate to the Isle of Dogs and parts of the Vauxhall/Nine Elms area.  The St George Wharf Tower in Vauxhall is one of the tallest residential buildings in London today (at 50 storeys and 181 metres height).  The Landmark Pinnacle residential tower at Canary Wharf (under construction) will be 75 storeys.

Six of the tallest residential buildings in Western Europe with planning permission are due to appear in the Isle of Dogs, Blackwall and South Poplar Opportunity Area (a Mayoral OA, as is the OPDC area).

From Landmark Pinnacle marketing brochure, Canary Wharf
From Landmark Pinnacle marketing brochure, Canary Wharf

Is this the ‘new London typology’ of built forms now due to arrive at Old Oak North?   Is this what west Londoners have asked for, in consultation responses on the OPDC Local Plan?

The proposals for ‘Old Oak Park‘ as consulted on by Cargiant/London & regional Properties in 2015 and 2016, did not involve buildings of this height.  In several meetings with London and Regional Properties and their design team, we were told that there might be a few towers of around 40 storeys and the remainder of the housing at lower heights.

The residential towers granted permission to date by OPDC in Scrubs lane are in the 20-25 storey range.   The Imperial College tower in Wood Lane, at 35 storeys, is the one and only very tall building in this part of London to date.

The final draft of the OPDC Local Plan provides very little information on building heights.   The whole plan is premised on ‘transit oriented high density living’ in order to achieve a 25,000 housing target set (with very little analysis) back in 2015.   But anyone reading through all the plan documentation will find nothing that provides an honest assessment of likely building heights.

OPDC draft policies state simply that ‘tall buildings’ will be ‘appropriate’ at certain locations.   Even the specific separate Tall Buildings Statement says Identifying general heights of tall buildings is not considered to be appropriate at this time.   Given that the Draft Local Plan has now been signed off by the OPDC Board and submitted to Government, it is not clear what other moment will be more ‘appropriate’ for some honesty and openness on this issue.

CGI image of Cargiant's proposals for Old Oak Park
CGI image of Cargiant’s proposals for Old Oak Park

Cargiant/London & Regional Properties have had their masterplanning work on hold for many months (their last public consultation was in July 2016).   How they now view the prospects for development of their landholding remains to be seen.   No construction work has started on the three major developments approved by OPDC in Scrubs Lane (North Kensington Gate, Mitre Yard, and 2 Scrubs Lane).  The London property market is flat at best, and falling in parts of Hammersmith and in Kensington.

Once the dates are known for the Examination in Public of the OPDC Local Plan, the Forum will be meeting to prepare our evidence.  OPDC decisions attract little London-wide public attention at present, and the EIP should provide a focus for wider interest and debate on the future of this part of London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our response to the OPDC Local Plan 19.2 consultation

Between 14 June and 30 July, OPDC consulted on a revised version of its Draft Local Plan.

It is unusual for a Local Plan to need to be consulted on for a third time.  The range and number of changes that OPDC had to make to its 2017 ‘Regulation 19’ version were such that a further round of public consultation was required.

Our previous posts on the Draft Local Plan and on ‘how the key players responded’ explain the outcome of the 2017 round of consultation.  OPDC planners have had to make substantial revisions to their proposals. The most significant of these is that Local Plan policies for ‘Old Oak South’ are not expected to take effect within the 2018-38 ‘plan period’.

This area, north of Wormwood Scrubs, is to be the location for the HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line rail interchange, due for completion in 2026.  The original OPDC 2015 ‘vision’ saw this ‘place’ as the commercial heart of a new part of London.   But the constraints of existing rail infrastructure, including newly built depots, means that development is no longer seen as viable for a further 20 years.

The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum has long argued the case for use of the neighbourhood planning framework as a vehicle for creating planning policies and site allocations that can be adjusted to changed circumstances.  The infrastructure costs of regeneration at Old Oak are such that funding through planning obligation receipts (CIL and S106) will never be sufficient to resource all OPDC ambitions.  Major uncertainties remain as to how regeneration and new transport infrastructure can be financed.

We believe that planning for the area should be more evolutionary and incremental, and will need more frequent review and updating than for most Local Plans.  OPDC did not share our view that designation of a 280 hectare Old Oak neighbourhood area could have achieved a more responsive planning process.

We think that Old Oak needs some realistic ‘meanwhile’ policies and site allocations, and a  strong element of co-design with the existing local communities in the area.   Brexit, a faltering London housing market, and the potential competing construction demands of Heathrow expansion, are all good reasons for avoiding an over-prescriptive and ultra high density Local Plan for Old Oak.  Yet the 19.2 OPDC Local Plan heads relentlessly in this direction.

A copy of the Forum’s consultation response to the OPDC 19.2 Draft Local Plan can be downloaded here OONF response to Regulation 19.2 OPDC Local Plan.   OPDC intend to submit their finalised Plan to the Secretary of State in autumn 2018, with the Examination in Public held during the winter of 2018.  Adoption of the Plan is scheduled for early 2019.