Ealing’s new Local Plan

Ealing Council is carrying out consultation on a first draft of its new Local Plan.   The existing local plan for the Borough is made up of a 2012 Core Strategy and a 2013 Development Sites DPD.

It is one of the most outdated local plans of any London Borough.  Hence a source of regular concern from local people that the Council’s Planning Committee takes a very cavalier approach to deciding whether applications conform with ‘planning policy’.

Details of the Regulation 18 Draft Local Plan are here on the LBE website. The consultation was originally due to close on January 25th 2023 but we hear that it will be extended for a further two weeks.

The new Local Plan for Ealing will not cover that part of the Borough which lies within the OPDC boundary.  The OPDC Local Plan, with its policies and site allocations, will continue to apply in this part of Ealing.

Ealing Local Plan

This Regulation 18 version should be followed by a further Regulation 19 version in autumn 2023 – once comments and feedback from residents, landowners, developers, and interested public agencies are taken on board.

You can comment directly to the Council by emailing to localplan@ealing.gov.uk .   Or if you prefer to send any thoughts to us at the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum, you can send them to oonforum@gmail.com and we will incorporate them in our response.

We will be commenting mainly on the part of the Draft Local Plan which covers ‘Acton’.  This is one of the seven ‘Towns’ around which the new Local Plan is being structured as shown in the map above.   Note that this ‘Town’ does not include the increasingly notorious ‘North Acton Cluster’ of very tall buildings.  This lies within the OPDC boundary.

We are working with Ealing Matters in putting together our response.  Following discussion at the OONF and Grand Union Alliance meeting on January 3rd 2023, they have provided us with several working documents to assist in preparing a response to the Draft Plan.   This includes a helpful set of slides as well as other more detailed material:

Ealing Matters Local PLan slides

Ealing Matters High Level notes

LBE not fulfilling statutory duty

Critique of Shaping Ealing reports (final)

The case for a full review of the OPDC

The London Assembly’s Planning and Regeneration Committee is the body which scrutinises the decisions of the Mayor of London.  The Committee has been looking at the progress in London’s Opportunity areas, and (more recently) the work of the two Mayoral Development Coporations.

These are the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and the OPDC.  The LLDC has been overseseeing regeneration at the Olympic Park (created for 2012 Olympics) and the immediately surrounding area.  This Mayoral Development Corporation is now ‘in transition’ and in 2024 will be handing back its planning powers to the 5 London Boroughs, parts of which lie in the LLDC boundary.

We think that there is a strong case for OPDC to do the same.  OPDC’s efforts to deliver ‘regeneration’ at Old Oak have fallen out of sync with the timescale for completion of Old Oak Common Station (originally planned for 2026).

The transfer of public land, as envisaged in a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the Department for Transport and the Mayor of London in 2016 has not happened.  It is not certain that this will ever happen.   OPDC has no other assets or funds for insfrastructure (unlike the LLDC which took over the land used for the Olympic Park).

Our Forum was invited early in 2022 to submit evidence to the Assembly’s Planning and Regeneration Committee.  We had expected to be invited as ‘guests’ to a session of the committee to be held in June, and then postponed to November.

In the event this session was held on November 23rd.  Neither OONF nor the Grand Union Alliance were invited to attend.  Representatives from Just Space, involved in the LLDC area rather than at Old Oak, were able to be present and to answer questions from committee members.   You can watch the recording of the session.

After this November 23rd meeting, we sent a further letter to the committee members.  See at OONF to P and R Cttee 25.11.2022.  This set out points we had not had the opportunity to make at the session.

The 2023/4 proposed budget for the OPDC is £10.4m, up from £7.8m in the current year.   We have prepared a detailed submission to the Assembly Members on this committee.  See at OONF Submission to Budget and Performance Committee. November 18th 2022.

This submission sets out our perceptions of the track record of the Development Corporation.  We assess this against a set of ‘objectives and expectations’ set by the then Mayor of London in 2014/15. Our conclusions are that outcomes over the past 7 years have fallen well short of these benchmarks, particularly in the period when the plans for the Cargiant land unravelled in 2018/19,

The Budget and Performance Committee will meet on December 7th to discuss the budget proposals form LLDC and from OPDC.  We hope that the Committee will give serious consideration to the option of a full review of OPDC.

The Mayor has a statutory obligation to review both MDCs from time to time, and we think that now is a moment when OPDC’s aspirations need a reality check.   The context and timeline for the HS2 project, and viability for new housing and commercial development at Old Oak, have changed a lot since 2015.

A further decade of allowing a series of scattered high density/high rise developments to take place, with no surrounding amenities and no public transport improvements, is not (in our view) how to create a new and successful part of a global city

 

Adoption of the OPDC Local Plan – the flaws in the process

The OPDC Local Plan was finally adopted by the Development Corporation’s Board on June 22nd.  This is five years later that the original timetable of Spring 2017.

The Local Plan has had a difficult time in reaching adoption.  Previous posts on the website record the history.  The ‘examination’ of the Plan by Planning Inspector Paul Clark ran from October 2018 to April 2022 and involved 464 ‘major modifications’ (a very high number for a London local plan).   We have long argued that

  • OPDC should not have submitted its Regulation 19.2 Draft Plan in the first place, back in October 2018.  Cargiant had by then written to withdraw their co-operation (in a letter the existence of which was made public only in January 2020, in a report from the London Assembly).
  • OPDC should have withdrawn its ‘submission version’ and started on a fresh plan once the Inspector had issued his interim findings in September 2019.  The Inspector ruled that the Cargiant sites must be removed as development landf as an unviable way forward.  This prompted wholesale changes to the local plan, made via a ‘modidfication’ process the scope and duration of which is arguably open to challenge.

In the final stages of decisions by OPDC to proceed to adopt the Plan, OONF has continued to raise issues and ask questions of the OPDC.  Recent correspondence is listed below for those who want to see the detail.

OONF to Liz Peace April 2022.final.2 questioning why a key document of January 26th 2022 (OPDC-51 on tall buildings) had not been considered by the OPDC Planning Committee or the Board.  These very late ‘modifications’ to the Local Plan did not form part of the 2021 public consultation, and were not consulted on subsequently prior to adoption of the local plan.

Liz Peace to OONF May 2022 is the response from Liz Peace saying that Planning Committee members were ‘fully aware’ of the content of OPDC-51. But how was this the case, as the committee did not meet between a meeting held on January 17th 2022 and its meeting of June 16th which recommended adoption of the Local Plan?

Our letter of  11th June to OPDC Planning Committee members, and an summary of the discussion at the 16th June Planning Committee were reported to the OPDC Board in an addendum report at the Board meeting on 22nd June.  This addendum also includes a ‘briefing note’ sent by OPDC Director of Planning to Planning Committee members, respnding to the OONF letter before the committee meeting took place.

After the Planning Committee discussion, OONF wrote to all OPDC Board members in a final effort to bring to their attention the flaws in the content of the Local Plan, and in the process of its long period of examination by a planning inspector.   As yet there has been no reply to this letter.  OONF to Liz Peace for June 22nd Board.V2 final.

OONF will be discussing at it next regular meeting the implications of adoption of the local plan and the extent to which the process leading up to adoption is open to legal challenge.

 

 

Outcome of Local Plan Examination hearings January 2022

As explained in a previous post, the Planning Inspector dealing with the examination of the OPDC Draft Local Plan agreed to hold four further public hearing sessions on 11th and 12th January.

At a hearing on the 11th January 2022 OONF had some success in persuading the Inspector (Paul Clark) that OPDC need to be more upfront and specific about ‘suitable locations’ and ‘appropriate heights’ of tall buildings, in a final version of its ‘Post Submission Modified Draft Local Plan’.

We have been making the point for five years that the current draft refers frequently to ‘varying building heights’.  The document includes maps with large areas deemed as ‘appropriate’ for tall buildings.

On each of the three successive versions of the Draft Plan we have asked for more honesty from OPDC, in the form of the housing density figures assumed for each ‘site allocation’ and the likely implications for building heights.

In a Local Plan which sets site allocations with specific housing numbers, it is not rocket science to forecast the building typologies and heights likely to result, within a range.  These heights might be ‘mansion blocks’ of 10-14 storeys up to towers of 40 storeys and more, depending on how many housing units are to be fitted into the site.

OPDC planning officers have always remained very coy on this subject.  Vague answers have been given at public meetings.   We pointed out to the Planning Inspector that the maps and text in the ‘Place’ sections of the Draft Local Plan are similary vague.

Nowhere in the many hundred pages of Draft Local Plan documents is there any acknowledgement of a specific building height above 12 storeys.  Yet local people know very well that buildings of 20-30 storeys have been granted planning consent at ‘Oaklands Rise’ and along Scrubs Lane.  And that LB Ealing has approved towers of 50 storeys plus at North Acton, on applications ‘delegated’ by OPDC.

Now there is a new policy D9 on Tall Buildings included in the 2021 London Plan.  This applies to all new local plans being prepared by Boroughs, the OPDC and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).

At the hearing on January 11th, the Planning Inspector accepted our case that more honesty and transparency is needed in the final ‘modifications’ of the OPDC Local Plan.  He has told OPDC officers to come up with further amendments which will identify ‘suitable locations’ and ‘appropriate heights’ for tall buildings, in text and on maps.  These changes are needed  for the adopted Plan to ‘generally conform’ with the London Plan and to be deemed ‘sound’ in this respect.

We have yet to see how OPDC responds to this new requirement for more modifications to be made.  There has been silence on the subject from OPDC, since the conclusion of the public hearing.

Portal Way and Atlas Wharf development proposals

Imperial College proposal for One Portal Way, North Acton

This application was submitted by Imperial in November 2021.  OPDC say it will not be put to the OPDC Planning Committee until mid 2022.  The ‘end date’ published by OPDC for responses to public consultation was 8th January, but OONF and GUA were given an extended deadline of 28th January.  OPDC are anyway legally required to take account of all representations up until the application is decided.

The OPDC Planning Committee considered an initial report on the proposals at it meeting on 20th January.  It appears that the Imperial team and their architects have made (or will be making) a presentation to the OPDC ‘Planning Advisory Panel’ anytime now.

We have asked about this ‘Advisory Panel’ and whether the public will be allowed to view or attend such a session.  If not, this seems a one-sided opportunity for a developer.

The proposed development involves 7 buildings.  Full planning consent is sought for the first two, including a 56 storey residential tower.  Outline consent is sought for a second phase, including two further buildings of up to 50 storeys.

OONF has submitted a detailed objection One Portal Way objection No.1  We will be submitting a further objection, including serious concerns on fire safety, in early February.

Our campaign website on this development is at  http://imperialfolly.org.uk/ and gives more background.   This includes a set of 12 reasons for objecting to the proposals, drawn up with our colleagues at Ealing Matters.  The CGI below is what the ‘North Acton Cluster will be like if this and other consented schemes are built.

Picture1

We have been corresponding with Imperial College on why a university with a global reputation for work climate change should be pursuing a speculative development with buildings of 50 storeys plus.  This building typology is known to be both energy intensive and with high levels of embedded carbon at the construction stage.

The College claim that this massive project (which has nil academic or university related content) is an ‘investment’ by the College Endowment. See more at http://imperialfolly.org.uk/?page_id=25.

If you have not already submitted comments on the application, it would be great if you could send an email to planningapplications@opdc.london.gov.uk.  You need to give your name and address (which will be redacted when your representation is published online) plus the reference number 21/0181/OUTOPDC

Pocket Living application at Atlas Wharf, Old Oak Lane  

A less extreme example, but one with unwelcome building heights for residents of the Old Oak Conservation Area (island triangle/TITRA/railway cottages) is an application from developers Pocket Living.  This is for a scheme of 436 housing units at ‘Atlas Wharf’.  This is the site behind the Collective building and beside the Grand Union Canal, off Old Oak Lane.

The development involves three buildings ranging from 9 to 29 storeys. This application has a reference number 21/0214/FUMOPDC and a ‘publicity end date’ of 8th February.  OONF will be submitting an objection, on the basis that the OPDC Draft Local Plan is not yet adopted and this application is premature.

The site is not designated for housing in the 2012 Ealing Core Strategy.  The Draft OPDC Local Plan refers to building heights of generally, 6 to 8 storeys fronting the Grand Union Canal.   The CGI image below is from the Planning Statement submitted with the application.

OPDC may delay a decision on this application in the hope that their Draft Local Plan will be supported by the Inspector and can be adopted shortly.  But the examination of this draft plan is not yet over (see separate post).

Image 1 cropped

If you feel that 29 storeys is not the same outcome as 6-8 storeys, comments on this application can be sent to planningapplications@opdc.london.gov.uk with your name and address and reference 21/0214/FUMOPDC.   The development offers housing units aimed at ‘mid-income’ renters and has plus points (if the ground floor spaces can be ‘activated’ with the type of users that Pocket Living hopes to attract).

This area of Atlas Road/Channel Gate is where we had hoped to extend the boundary of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum.  But our ‘designation application’ was refused by OPDC in November 2021.   Had we succeeded, we would have had a chance to negotiate with Pocket Living (and their co-applicants the current landowners) on a scheme with a lower density and more modest building heights.

Other parts of London are seeing good quality developments that the Forum would support.  The land values at Channel Gate/Atlas Road have in the past been at levels for industrial land, rather than residential so could have supported lower densities.

The gap between industrial and residential values will have narrowed since OPDC chose to allocate these sites (potentially) for 3,200 new homes.   But has the public gained any benefit from this change in planning designation?

These proposals are once again proving to be ‘developer led’ rather than ‘plan led’ as aspired to in the National Planning Policy Framework.  This is a repeat of the Scrubs Lane scenario in the east of the OPDC area.  So far this has not gone well from anyone’s perspective – developer or local community.  Developers overpaid for sites in the expectation of Cargiant’s ‘Old Oak Park’ scheme next door, for which plans were abandoned in 2018.

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.