Local Plan Examination hearings on 11th January 2022

Planning Inspector Paul Clark originally decided that he did not need to hold further public hearings, as part of his ‘examination’ of OPDC’s Draft Local Plan.

The previous round of hearings ended in July 2019.  The Inspector subsequently issued in September 2019 his ‘interim findings’.  These rejected as unviable OPDC’s proposals for compulsory purchase of the 46 acres of  Cargiant land as the first major stage of regeneration at Old Oak.

We are now in 2022, and the examination continues.  The Draft Plan remains that submitted by OPDC in October 2018 – as ‘modified’ by a series of new site allocations and a shift to a new strategy for the ‘Western Lands’ in East and North Acton.

We have long argued that these changes to OPDC’s proposals are more than ‘modifications’.  They rely on a very different spatial solution for Old Oak.  We think this solution makes little sense as a new part of London.

We welcome the fact the Planning Inspector has proved willing to change his mind, and to agree to further examination hearings on 11th and 12th January.  These will be held online.  We will publicise the link as soon as we are given it.

The January 11th examination hearings will look at two important questions:

1. The session at 10 am on Tuesday 11th January will hear evidence on PTAL levels at Old Oak.  PTAL is the measure of levels of Public Transport Accessibility which have long been used in London to assess the suitability of locations for high density housing.

The nearer to good public transport (on a range of 0-6) the more appropriate a site for high density living.   We think that the final version of the OPDC Local Plan has gone backwards in this respect,as compared with the 2018 version.  Our draft evidence for this session as at this link OONF and StQW on PTAL for Jan 11th V4

2.  The session at 2pm on Tuesday 11th June will consider whether the final version of the OPDFC Local Plan ‘generally conforms’ with the 2021 Policy D9 in the London Plan.  This policy was varied and strengthened by the intervention of Secretary of State Robert Jenrick in December 2020.

We will be seeking to persuade the Inspector that the Local Plan has avoided specifying locations for tall buildings, and makes no mention of the likelihood of buildings over 12 storeys.  Given that OPDC are currently considering an application at North Acton with one building at 56 storeys and two more at ‘up to 50’ this reality on the ground does not square with the content of the Local Plan.  Our draft evidence on this point can be downloaded here StQW and OONF rep on D9.V4

Our OONF/GUA meeting on January 4th at 6.30pm will discuss and finalise these to submissions to the Planning Inspector.  Any comments welcome at oonforum@gmail.com 

 

OPDC ‘Strategic Business Case and EIP hearings in January 2022

The ‘delivery arm’ of OPDC has been preparing a ‘Strategic Business Case’ for submission to Government.  This will argue that the Development Corporation needs either a large chunk of infrastructure funding, or a free/subsidised transfer of public land from Network Rail and other bodies.

Such financial support from Government is needed if OPDC’s ambitious plans for a ‘transformed’ Old Oak are to make further headway.

The scenario is reminiscent of when OPDC bid for, and received conditional approval, for £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding in September 2018. In the event, OPDC had later to relinquish these funds.  Cargiant had opposed the OPDC plans for ‘Old Oak North’ and the Corporation was unable to meet the conditions set by Government.

This unhappy saga (which cost Londoners some £6-8m in abortive work) has been covered in previous posts.

This time round, we are asking for full transparency on OPDC’s new ‘business case’ from the moment it is submitted to Government.  See our letter to David Lunts, CEO of OPDC, at this link OONF to OPDC DL 23rd December.

We think it essential that the Planning Inspector examining the Modified OPDC Draft Local Plan is fully aware of this document.  Back in 2018/19 OPDC refused to publish information on their bid for Housing Infrastructure Funding, until forced to by a legal summons from the London Assembly.

 

OPDC Board decision on our application to extend the OONF neighbourhood boundary

To no great surprise, the OPDC Board at its November 30th meeting decided to reject our application to extend the boundary of the Old Oak neighbourhood area to include the the current HS2 construction sites at Channel Gate and Atlas Road.

In doing so the Development Corporation places itself firmly in the camp of those London planning authorities which will go out of its way to find reasons to say ‘no’ to one of the few opportunities that local people can pursue in their efforts to shape future development in their area.

Our letter to OPDC Chief Executive David Lunts is at the link below.  We will post any response from OPDC, should we receive one.     OONF to David Lunts 23rd Dec 2021

City Mission Church 2 Scrubs Lane

The City Mission Church, on the corner of Harrow Road and Scrubs Lane, has been part of the community for 20 years. Now the Church, Nursery, food bank and many other services (particularly aimed at the BAME community) is in trouble. Despite being recognised as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) by Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham Councils, their property-developer landlords have given them all notice to quit by this FRIDAY 4th NOVEMBER!
The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum has joined with Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum and the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum (in North Kensington) to do all we can to support the church.  A long list of other residents and community groups can help the fight.
Please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WRJZCSK to find a petition set up in the last 24 hours, to the Mayor of London.  The OPDC (as the planning authority involved) is a Mayoral Development Corporation.
PLEASE DO THIS WITHOUT DELAY.
Background
In 2018 the site’s owners gained planning permission to build a 20 storey block of flats on the church site. At that time they promised to reprovide space for the church and the nursery within the new building. This year that planning permission expired.
The developers have been in discussion with the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) as they, not Brent nor Hammersmith & Fulham Council, are the planning authority for the site.
OONF and the StQW Neighbourhood Forum have written twice this week to solicitors acting for the landlords Scrubs Lane Ltd, an offshoot of Fruition Properties Ltd.  
We have flagged up all the reasons why these landowners/developers are unlikely to succeed in obtaining a new planning permission for their site, if this is how they treat the church and day nursery.   They knew in 2015 that in buying a site occupied by these longstanding uses, planning obligations would be likely to be imposed on any new development.  This remains the case, and we do not understand the motivations and intentions of these developers.
Please add your signature to the petition, to help signal that developers at Old Oak cannot keep ignoring the views of local people.  The letters sent from OONF and StQW can be downloaded here OONF to Gisby Harrison on City Mission Church final: and the second letter here OONF to Gisby Harrison on City Mission Church final 2nd Nov.   No reply as of 3rd November.

OPDC Draft Local Plan – why we think it should not be adopted

The OPDC’s Local Plan proposals enter their final stages over the coming weeks.   The Draft Plan was originally submitted in October 2018, after two years of preparation and three statutory consultations.

Three years later Planning Inspector Paul Clark has been reviewing responses to the consultation on ‘modifications’ made by OPDC following its November 2019 ‘change of direction’.   These fundamental changes to the original spatial proposals in the 2018 version had resulted from Cargiant decision’s to stay put on their 46 acre landholding at Hythe Road.   They include the loss of previously planned Overground stations at Hythe Road and Old Oak Common Lane.

The Planning Inspector concluded in 2019 after a series of public hearings that OPDC’s ideas for compulsory purchase of the Cargiant land were not viable.  He instructed that the key sites involved should be removed from the Plan and remain as at present, rather than being alloccated for 6,000 new homes.

OPDC then embarked on what it badged as its ‘Western Lands’ strategy.  Alternative sites for high density housing were identified at Channel Gate/Atlas Road and at Scrubs Lane, in an attempt to achieve the housing target set in the London Plan.

Since 2019 OONF has argued that this ‘change of direction’ has resulted in a Draft Local Plan that is deeply flawed.   There is now no significantly improved public transport network for the Old Oak area – apart from the new HS2/Crossrail station at Old Oak Common.  This is not due to become operational until 2029-33 and even then it is not clear how much practical value it will add to those living or working at Old Oak.

Plans for an east-west ‘Wormwood Scrubs street’ north of the Scrubs and linking East Acton to North Kensington remain 20 years away.  What was to have become a new major town centre at Hythe Road is now planned to be a series of ‘parts of a town centre’ spread between North Acton and Channel Gate off Old Oak Lane.

OONF has argued since 2019 that this ‘modified’ Local plan is incoherent.  Our detailed representations on the mid 2021 consultation are at this previous post  http://oldoakneighbourhoodforum.org/?p=638

It looks as though the Planning Inspector will pay little heed to the 254 points that we raised with him.  There were a total of 1,024 representations made, from the three Boroughs involved, local organisations such as the Grand Union Alliance, and landowners wanting to be able to build at ever higher densities.

The Inspector does not wish to hold further public hearings – despite the fact that the 2021 Draft Local Plan is very different from that on which hearings took place in 2019.

A final draft of our latest attempt to persuade the Inspector to recognise that this is a misguided and incoherent plan for Old Oak  can be downloaded here OONF and StQW submissions V6.

We are not optimistic that the Forum will be allowed the chance to explain our concerns at a public hearing.  Should it proceed to adoption by OPDC we don’t see this Local Plan as remaining in place for long, before it becomes all too obvious that a rethink is needed.

London’s future housing and office needs, and changes to working patterns, means that a regenerated part of needs to take account of a different context than in 2016.  Given the delays on the opening of Old Oak Common Station (was to be 2026 and now 2029-33) there is time to create a better Local Plan.

But the track record of the OPDC as a development corporation is already under fire, and its Board and officers seem determined to deliver a Local Plan even if it has many flaws.  The next few weeks of ‘examination’ of the Plan will be critical.

Responses to OPDC Modified Local Plan

The public consultation on the the OPDC Post Submission Modified Draft Local Plan (PSMDLP) ended on July 5th 2021.   Our Forum submitted a response in two parts.  OONF and StQW reps on PSMDLP Part 1 June 6th 2021 raised a series of legal and other questions for the Inspector on the scale and extent of the ‘modifications’ proposed by the OPDC.

The second part PSMDLP Part 2 FINAL covered detailed comments and queries on individual modifications.

We have since asked OPDC to publish all responses in the ‘Examination Library’ (available from its own website).   OPDC officers say that they are collating and reviewing all representations made, and will prepare responses to these, before forwarding the full set to Planning Inspector Paul Clark.  It seems that only then will this material become public.

The OPDC web page on the Local Plan consultation says We have also updated the Examination Library with the most up to date documents.   But none of the consultation responses are published.

We argue that there a live planning issues in the OPDC area (particularly in North Acton and Scrubs Lane) on which the public have a right to know what is being said about the draft Local Plan – by developers, businesses, community groups and individual residents.  Hence the need for us to understand this up to date context.

The Examination of the Draft Plan has been onging since September 2018.  This is far longer than usual.  OPDC and LB Ealing have not stopped deciding individual applications, and there are more in the pipeline.

We have been able to obtain copies of some of the representations submitted to OPDC by the Borough Councils affected:

Hammersmith & Fulham’s response

The comments from Hammersmith & Fulham Council OPDC MM LBHF RESPONSE.docx say as follows:

These (previous) representations also raised issue with the deliverability of the Plan through the proposed phasing of infrastructure and the inability to generate sufficient funds from CIL/S106 contributions. The deletion of the strategically important allocation of Old Oak North, and OPDC’s consequential attempt at a much-revised spatial strategy in response, have unfortunately not overcome these objections, rather they have only sought to make them more obvious and their unacceptability more apparent.

Further, new issues of concern have arisen that necessitate new objections from LBHF. These are primarily associated with ensuring the Plan is capable of delivering a coherent new neighbourhood for Old Oak North and Scrubs Lane that successfully integrates and respects the surrounding context, achieves a high quality sense of ‘place’ for new and existing residents and businesses, and circumvents predicted issues that are likely to arise.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the 20 months that OPDC spent in preparing its modified Local Plan.  We agree with Hammersmith & Fulham Council that OPDC’s latest attempts to portray Scrubs Lane as a ‘place in it own right‘ which is ‘well-connected‘ within the local area are very unconvincing.

Kensington and Chelsea’s reponse

The submission from RB Kensington & Chelsea RBKC response to OPDC modifications is less critical.  This is partly because this council is dealing with major development proposals for the Kensal Canalside area, to the east of Scrubs Lane.

RBKC is one of a number of councils subject to the the MHCLG ’tilted balance’.  This ’tilt’ towards the ambitions of developers applies to those planning authorities which have failed over several year to meet their housing targets, as set in the London Plan.

Hence the RBKC planners are having to consider housing densities and building heights at Kensal Canalside which are well above those that this Council would have accepted in the past.  Hitherto, RBKC have been a council which has resolutely refused to take part in London’s second phase of tall buildings (the first having been in the 1950s/1960s).

A change of approach to Kensal Canalside means that there will be planning battles in North Kensington similar to those experienced to date on applications consented by OPDC and LB Ealing at North Acton.

Ealing Council’s reponse

Our earlier post http://oldoakneighbourhoodforum.org/?p=623 speculated on how Ealing Council would respond to OPDC’s proposed modificataions. Disappointingly this submission  OPDC LP 2021 – LBE response final focuses mainly ‘strategic issues of industrial land supply‘ and whether OPDC are doing enough to achieve a ‘plan-led’ approach to waste disposal sites.

There is little or nothing in the Ealing reponse that reflects the very public commitments of Ealing’s Leader Cllr Peter Mason on a rethink of the Council’s approach to tall buildings and to respond to widespread resident opposition to past decisions of Ealing’s Planning Committee.   This may be a result of Ealing’s response to OPDC having been prepared without much input from the Leader and his new Cabinet colleagues.

We have also seen representations made by the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs and by the Hammersmith Society.  Both of these raise majot concerns about the direction of travel pursued by OPDC.

Copies of any further responses to the OPDC consultation would be welcome, as we would like to build a fuller picture now rather than to have to wait on what could become a lengthy exercise in collation and review by OPDC officers.   We will continue to press for early publication of all representations made, in the original form as submitted.

There is no definite timtable for when OPDC will complete its collation of all responses, and send these to the Planning Inspector.  This might be by late August 2021.  The next stage of the ‘examination’ is then entirely in the hands of the Planning Inspector.

OPDC continue to assume that they will have an adopted Local Plan in place by the end of the year.  We continue to believe that the odds on this outcome being achieved are not great.

How will Ealing Council respond to OPDC’s modified Draft Local Plan?

Ealing Council is under new leadership as from May 18th 2021, with Cllr Peter Mason appointed as its Leader and a changed set of Cabinet members.  In his first week, the new Leader announced

• An immediate review of council policy on tall buildings, setting out where tall buildings are inappropriate in the borough
• Implementing town development plans, created with communities, setting out the vision and infrastructure needs of the borough’s seven towns

Our Forum strongly supports both these ambitions.   Ealing has long defined itself as ‘the Queen of the Suburbs’ and a Borough made up of its ‘seven towns’ (including Acton).   In the past five years, a cluster of major towers at North Acton has completely changed the character of the area.

The planning consents for these developments have been granted by Ealing Council under its ‘scheme of delegation’ with OPDC.  It is not the only part of the Borough which has seen changes.   Public opposition to a rash of tall buildings across Ealing has made itsef felt in recent years.

As a result of campaigns by the Ealing Civic Society, Ealing Matters, and the ‘Red Block Rebels’ the new administration at the Town Hall is aware of the growing strength of public opposition to extreme housing densities and building heights.  Local elections take place in May 2022.

The OPDC Draft Local Plan threatens further high density high-rise in East Acton, at Channel Gate and at Acton Wells (the sites on Victoria Road).   This building typology is being imposed because the Corporation has a 25,000 housing target to meet and has struggled to identify enough potential sites after the 45 acres of Cargiant land was ruled out in late 2019.  Too much is being crammed on too little land.

Our Forum has written to Councillor Peter Mason asking how his new administration will be responding to OPDC’s consultation on its ‘modifications’ to the Draft Local Plan.   This will be an early opportunity for the Council to demonstrate a real commitment to a rethink of its plans for the future of the Borough.  Our letter can be downloaded here OONF and StQW to Peter Mason June 2021 final

Under the former leadership of Cllr Julian Bell, Ealing Council seemed content to leave OPDC to its own devices in terms of plans for East Acton.  Cllr Bell viewed the delegation scheme for North Acton as ‘our opt out’ and a sufficient level of control by the Borough.  This unusual arrangement (of one planning authority deciding planning applications on behalf of another) was negotiated by Ealing with London Mayor Boris Johnson prior to the establishment of a Mayoral Development Corporation in 2015.

The results for North Acton are now there for all to see,  and visible from a wide expanse of London.  ‘One Westpoint’ at 54 storeys is nearing completion and has joined a cluster of towers of student and residential accommodation (mainly) small flats and studio apartments).  A further development at 4 Portal Way has planning consent for 55 storeys.  Further developments at 1 Portal Way, and on the site of the Castle pub, are at pre-application stage.

North Acton prior to construction of 1 Portal Way and 4 Portal Way
North Acton prior to construction of 1 Portal Way and 4 Portal Way

We think it wise of Cllr Peter Mason to commit to a review of the Borough’s strategy for tall buildings.   In an era of lockdowns and cladding scandals, public appetite for high-rise living is uncertain.  Sales off-plan to foreign investors have fallen away.   We hope that he and his Cabinet colleagues take a careful look at the details of OPDC’s Draft Local Plan.  This consultation is the last chance to do so, before the Planning Inspector brings his examination to a conclusion.

Ealing residents look to its Council, with its new leadership, to do more than wave through an OPDC Draft Local Plan that fails to reflect how local people wish to see the eastern part of the Borough develop in the future.   The Queen of the Suburbs can do better.

Designation application to extend the Old Oak neighbourhood boundary

The boundary of our neighbourhood area was set by OPDC in September 2017, at the time when the Corporation ‘refused’ our original application for a much larger neighbourhood covering the ‘Old Oak’ part of the OPDC boundary.

At that time the OPDC Draft Local Plan was focused on ‘Old Oak North’ and the Cargiant landholding.  This was planned to be the new ‘major town centre’ linked to to the new Old Oak Common station.

In 2019 OPDC changed direction and now sees the Channel Gate and Atlas Road sites (off Victoria Road/Old Oak Lane) as an area for concentrated development of 3,100 new homes.  This site now features in the Modified Draft Local Plan as ‘part of major town centre’.

Our Forum has doubts about the realism of these proposals.  This is a far from obvious location to attract ‘town centre’ uses and will be a 1km walk from Old Oak Common station.  We have therefore been proposing since December 2020 that OPDC should grant an extension to the Old Oak neighbourhood boundary to take in the land shown as hatched on the map below.

Areas proposed for inclusion in an extended Old Oak neighbourhood boundary June 2021
Areas proposed for inclusion in an extended Old Oak neighbourhood boundary June 2021

This extended area would allow for the preparation of a ‘contingent’ part of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Plan, to come into effect should the OPDC Draft Local Plan fail to achieve adoption after its continued ‘examination’ by Planning Inspector Paul Clark.

Another possible event is that the HS2 project is cancelled, even at this late stage, on the basis that assumptions in its business plan not longer stack up as a result of the fall in rail passenger numbers caused by the pandemic.   In either of these two eventualities, a ‘planning void’ for this part of Ealing would need to be filled.   Use of the neighbourhood planning framework could achieve this outcome faster than preparation of a further Local Plan.

Our designation application will be published by OPDC for a 6 week period of public consultation.  Currently it looks as if this will not start until mid July.   Meanwhile a copy of our application can be downloaded here OONF Designation application June 6th 2021

Hammersmith & Fulham vote against OPDC proposed ‘modifications’

At the OPDC Board on March 4th 2021, Councillor Steve Cowan explained that he would be voting against the submission of the set of proposed ‘modifications’ to the 2018 version of the OPDC Draft Local Plan.

He suggested that these proposed changes to the Plan, which have taken OPDC planning officers 16 months to prepare, should be ‘laid on the table’ until the next meeting.  This would allow more time for local residents in north Hammersmith to be persuaded of the merits of the changes.

When the modifications were discussed at the OPDC Planning Committee on February 23rd, LBHF councillors Wesley Harcourt and Natalia Perez both abstained on the recommendation to progress the modifications to the Board.

Additional very high density tall residential towers along Scrubs Lane and north of Little Wormwood Scrubs are one of the causes of concern.  The lack of any vehicle access to the new £1.3bn Old Oak Common station (under construction north of Wormwood Scrubs) is another.

The OONF newsletter for March 2021 at this link gives more details March 2021 newsletter

 

 

London Assembly’s strong criticisms of OPDC

The London Assembly is made up of of 25 Assembly Members, elected at the same time as the Mayor of London.  It is the body which ‘holds the Mayor to account’ in terms of policies, priorities and spending plans.

In the period before each Mayoral Budget, the Assembly examines the budget proposals prepared by each of the Mayoral agencies (fire, police, London Legacy Development Corporation and the OPDC) along with the budget for the core functions of the Greater London Authority.

This year (January 2021) the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee has published a strongly critical report on the OPDC.  The key message from the committee is that Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation has spent £42.7 million, even though five years on, little has been done on the ground to bring any new jobs or homes to the area.

Our Forum shares these concerns.   For some years we have been raising with OPDC Board Chair Liz Peace, CEO David Lunts, and with Assembly Members our perceptions that the Development Corporation lacks transparency, makes too many decisions behind closed doors, and does not listen enough to the views and suggestions of local residents at Old Oak.

These problems are not new.  See our March 2020 post OPDC required to explain itself  http://oldoakneighbourhoodforum.org/?p=523 and our December 2019 post OPDC a development corporation lacking transparency at http://oldoakneighbourhoodforum.org/?p=476.

We were submitting Freedom of Information requests about the £250m award of HIF grant back in mid 2019.   The St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum (in North Kensington) published in August 2019 a long piece headed OPDC governance – the questions being asked  at https://stqw.org/wordpress/2019/08/08/opdc-governance-the-questions-being-asked/.   A subsequent news item the OPDC’s secrecy on explored the OPDC’s secrecy over the conditions attached by the Government to this funding award at https://stqw.org/wordpress/2019/12/11/opdc-secrecy-on-housing-infrastructure-funding/.

As the London Assembly report makes clear, it was this episode above all which has led the Budget and Performance Committee to conclude that OPDC has not been fulfilling its intended role and that Confidence in the OPDC to deliver such a high-scale project has diminished to next to zero. 

The full report from the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee can be downloaded from this link https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/london_assembly_-_opdc_budget_report_-_january_2021.pdf

The Corporation was handed a difficult task to undertake, with no certainty of major Government funding for the infrastructure needed to unlock sites at Old Oak.  But we believe that a different approach – more realistic, more evolutionary and more open and honest with landowners, stakeholders and local people, would have achieved better results over the past 6 years.

The Assembly’s report ends with the suggestion The Mayor should give serious thought to how the OPDC is structured, how it delivers value for money, and whether it would benefit further from working more closely with the London Legacy Development Corporation or internally at the GLA. 

We think a further option is for the Mayor and Borough Leaders at Ealing, Brent, and Hammersmith & Fulham to look again at their respective roles in regeneration at Old Oak.   OPDC’s current twin roles as planning authority and delivery agency combine two sets of functions with inherent internal conflicts.

OPDC chose to delegate decisions on most of the major developments in Ealing to that council’s planning committee.  The prospects of a modified Draft OPDC Local Plan emerging in summer 2021, and which offers a coherent future vision for Old Oak, seems questionable.

Mayoral elections are due in May, postponed from 2020 and with every possibility of being postponed again.   All planning for London’s future, against a backcloth of ‘recovery’ from Covid, a very uncertain economy, and a population which may be shrinking fast, needs to be rethought.   We hope that local voices at Old Oak will be listened to more than has been the case to date.