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.

Our response to the Draft London Plan

The Mayor of London has been consulting on the proposed new London Plan.  This will replace the current version, which was prepared and subsequently updated during the Boris Johnson Mayoralty.

The new version includes many good policies, but has a strong focus on ‘intensification’ of development across London and especially in Opportunity Areas.  It sticks to the 2012 target of 24,500 new homes on land at Old Oak.   This target has become increasingly unrealistic, as major infrastructure obstacles surface in relation to OPDC proposals for ‘Old Oak South’ (the area around the planned HS2 station).

The new London Plan says even less than the current version about neighbourhood planning.   It repeats familiar Mayoral statements about the needs to involve Londoners in the planning process, while ignoring the one route that Parliament has introduced  to enable local people to have any real influence on Local Plans.

The response from the Forum can be seen here OONF response to London Plan.V4.

Update on the OPDC Local Plan and Old Oak masterplan

OPDC planning officers (Tom Cardis and Peter Farnham) gave an update on what the Development Corporation has been doing, at a session in Harlesden on February 8th.   There was some important news, summarised below:

On the Draft Local Plan

  • There were 119 responses to the OPDC consultation last summer, on the Draft Local Plan. Following the efforts of OONF to see these responses published (see previous post ) a schedule of all responses has been made available at this link on the OPDC website.
  • A number of the key responses, including from HS2, Transport for London, and the Mayor of London, set out major concerns with the Regulation 19 Draft Plan. A range of draft OPDC policies are considered not to be ‘sound’ and to require revision before a final Draft Plan is submitted to the Secretary of State.  (The full response letters from HS2, the Mayor and TfL were published via links in our January post)
  • OPDC planning officers are continuing to amend the Draft Local Plan. The extent of changes and revisions means that it is likely (but not definite) that there will need to be a further round of public consultation on ‘major modifications’ to the 2017 version.  This consultation will probably happen in mid 2018, with submission to the Secretary of State in the autumn.
  • This delay will give the OPDC longer to take account of new policies proposed in the new Draft London Plan, currently out to public consultation until March 2nd 2018.
  • Among the responses submitted last summer, there are a number from landowners and developers, promoting particular approaches and policies for specific sites. These include detailed proposals from Raban Goodhall for a mixed use development immediately north of Goodhall Street (in the TITRA area and within the boundary of the designated Old Oak Neighbourhood Area).
  • Responses submitted last September from the Grand Union Alliance, Hammersmith Society, OONF, Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum and many individual residents are detailed, well argued, and take a broadly consistent line. It will be very hard for OPDC to ignore these comments.

It is already clear that major revisions are being made to the Regulation 19 Draft Plan as a result of views expressed by local people, as well as by major stakeholders such as HS2 and Transport for London.  Significant changes include:

  • Recognition that plans for Old Oak South (the areas around the proposed HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line interchange) remain highly uncertain at present. While the prospect of ‘overdecking’ the main station ‘remains on the table’, HS2 make very clear in their own response that their remit is to construct a rail station with natural ventilation.
  • No funding is yet committed for decking over the rail interchange or providing artificial ventilation to the rail interchange below.
  • Hence the ‘vision’ of very high density 40-60 storey towers at the heart of a new Old Oak (i.e. a Canary Wharf of the West as shown in the Boris Johnson 2015 OPDC Opportunity Area Planning Framework) is by no means a certainty.
The original 2015 'vision' for Old Oak
The original 2015 ‘vision’ for Old Oak
  • Old Oak North (the Cargiant/London Regional Property site) remains the area identified for early development (i.e. the next 10 years). Scrubs Lane and Victoria Road likewise.
  • Transport for London have asked that the proposed two new Overground Stations, at Hythe Road and at Old Oak Common Lane, be referred to as ‘potential’ new stations.  No funding source has yet been identified for these projects.
  • Less emphasis is being placed on the proposed ‘Old Oak High Street’  because of the very high infrastructure costs of bridging rail lines and the Grand Union Canal.
  • The next version of the Local Plan will be more explicit about housing densities, the location of tall buildings, and what OPDC define as a ‘tall building’ (the absence of such information in the Regulation 19 Draft was one of the main complaints of OONF and other respondents).
  • On affordable housing, the next version of the Local Plan will take into account the Mayor’s ‘threshold’ of 35% affordable housing, for schemes where developers wish to avoid submission of detailed financial viability assessments.
  • OPDC are looking to achieve 25% ‘family homes’ (i.e. 3 bed plus) with a split of 30% social housing and 70% intermediate housing tenure.
  • The existing West London Waste Plan and present locations of major waste sites in the Old Oak area are a further complication.

The Old Oak masterplan

A masterplan for the Old Oak part of the OPDC area is being prepared by the consortium led by AECOM.  The clients for this work are a separate department of the OPDC, acting as a developer of the large swathes of public land involved.

Little information about this masterplan is yet in the public domain.  Some form of public engagement process is expected in early summer.

A key document emerging from this masterplanning exercise will be an updated Development Capacity study for. This will test the realism of the 24,500 housing target set for Old Oak.  The adequacy of the existing  evidence base for this target (which dates from the 2015 Further Alterations to the London Plan) was a question picked up strongly in responses from OONF and others to the Regulation 19 Draft Plan.

The new London Plan sets an increased annual housing target for the OPDC area, from 1,100 units per annum to 1,360 units.   Whether this proves at all realistic will depend on future (and uncertain) demand within the London housing market and the rate at which major developers such as Cargiant/London & Regional, and QPR/Genesis, choose to build out their schemes.

Opportunities for future community engagement

The Great Place Scheme involves a widening group of local organisations and individuals.  OPDC has been awarded almost £1.5 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will be used to enhance the role that arts, culture and heritage plays in the future of the area.

A Local Heritage Listings consultation runs until 22nd March, giving people an opportunity to identify buildings for local listing.  Listings do not benefit from statutory protection from demolition but they do assist OPDC in identifying non-designated heritage assets. This ensures that the conservation of a non-designated asset is a material consideration in determining planning applications.

OPDC will be setting up a Community Design Review Group, which will involve local people in providing input on proposed developments, alongside the existing Place Review Group managed by CABE.  No details are yet available on how this new group will be formed.

OPDC Draft Local Plan – how key players responded

Public consultation on the Regulation 19 OPDC Local Plan ended last September.  Since then news has emerged that the timetable for publication of a final version of the Draft Plan (for submission to the Secretary of State) has slipped to May/June 2018.

OPDC has not so far published the responses to its consultation last summer.  Given this delay, we asked to see those responses which had been submitted by the main statutory agencies involved, and by landowners and developers.   Otherwise it would have been nearly a year before local people could know how these various bodies had responded to the proposals that OPDC published in June 2017.

Copies of the responses as provided to us can be downloaded from the links below.  These documents were submitted as part of a public consultation exercise, so are in the public domain.  They demonstrate that there are several aspects of the OPDC Draft Local Plan which will need a rethink, particularly around the proposed HS2 station in ‘Old Oak South’ .

There were 119 responses in all to the OPDC Regulation 19 Local Plan consultation.  These includes responses from community groups (including this forum), amenity societies, and individuals.  A report to the OPDC Board in November 2017 gives a summary of the issues raised, and a link to this report is in the list below.

One important response is not yet available.  This is from Cargiant/London & Regional Properties.  We understand that their original response included some errors which are being revised.

Response from Mayor of London and TfL

Response from TfL Commercial division

Response from HS2

Response from HGH Planning on behalf of QPR

Response from LIchfields on behalf of Citrus Group and Fullers Ltd

Response from Deloitte on behalf of Diageo Ltd

Response from Turley on behalf of Ashur Centaur

Response from Savills on behalf of Osbourne Investments and Quattro Holdings

Response from Boyer on behalf of Raban Goodhall Ltd

Response from GRID on behalf of Raban Goodhall Ltd

Response from DP9 on behalf of PPHE Hotels Group

OPDC Board report November 2017

Please email us at oonforum@gmail.com if you have any views or thoughts on how these responses might affect future plans for Old Oak.