HS2 and its detailed plans for Old Oak Common Station

HS2 has submitted to OPDC a series of applications under S17 and S16 of the HS2 Act, with details of its plans for ‘above ground’ works and the road layout at the planned Old Oak Common station and Crossrail interchange.  These ‘Section 17’ applications differ from normal planning applications in that the local planning authority (in the case the OPDC) can refuse them only on very narrowly defined grounds.

The Act itself, and the lengthy period between 2014 and 2017 when the public were able to make representations on the Bill, means that HS2 has ‘deemed consent’ to do pretty much what it wants to do in terms of design of Old Oak Common station and changes to the local road network.

Yet the Act passed through Parliament long before OPDC made its radical change of direction and abandoned its plans for Old Oak North and the Cargiant land.  Many of the assumptions built into the station design, and included in these latest applications still assume that there will be car and bus entry to the station from Scrubs Lane to the east as well as from Old Oak Common Lane to the west.  OPDC tell us that this ‘Eastern Public Realm’ will not now happen.   Nor will the originally proposed ‘Park Road’ be built as an east west route across Old Oak North.

The applications cover different bits of the jigsaw which will make up the totality of the plans for the station interchange, as below.

  • 19/0175/HS2OPDC – Schedule 17 for lorry routes associated with main works stage.
  • 20/0011/HS2OPDC – Schedule 17 Old Oak Common Lane realignment and replacement bridges
  • 20/0012/HS2OPDC – Schedule 17 for Old Oak Common Station. The leaflet .
  • 20/0013/HS2OPDC – Schedule 16 for layout of the on-site road network adjacent to the Station.

Making comments on separate applications, for which the documentation is often very technical, makes life hard for the general public.  The OPDC Planning Committee will also be deciding on separate applications at different meetings, so the committee members may also struggle to see the full picture.

Local organisations have been busy submitting comments on the main application that covers the works to the station.  You can download the following responses:

OONF response at OONF objection to HS2 S17 application.final

Wells House Road Residents Association response at WHRRA Response to HS2 Schedule 17 and 16 planning applications_FINAL_040520_v4

TITRA response at TITRA Response to HS2 schedule 16 17 planning applications May 4 2020

One of the points made in the OONF response is that the HS2 consultation material from 2019 (and much of the documentation) portrays the ‘Adjacent Site’ to the south of the station as a grassed open area as in the image below.

HS2 consultation image of Old Oak Common station and Ajacent Site
HS2 consultation image of Old Oak Common station and Adjacent Site

In reality HS2 has been marketing this site since early 2019 and seeking a development partner, on the basis that the site is suitable for office development in 8 blocks ranging from 4 to 18 storeys, as below.

HS2 Feb 2019 marketing material for the Adjacent Site
HS2 Feb 2019 marketing material for the Adjacent Site

It is small wonder that the general public are confused as to what exactly HS2 and OPDC are planning for the station and its immediate surroundings.

OONF pointed out to OPDC and to HS2 back in February 2019 that the public were being shown very different ‘visualisations’ of the station site, with the HS2 ‘consultation’ version appearing widely in the media.   But little or nothing has since been done to correct misleading impressions given.

We understand that the main S17 application on the station buildings will be decided by the OPDC Planning Committee on 19th May.  This assumes that OPDC are able by then to find a way to hold a ‘virtual’ committee meeting which the public can access online (with 5 minutes of public speaking rights for objectors and supporters) by that date.

OPDC required to explain itself

The OPDC has come under further scrutiny in recent months.  The development corporation is one of several Mayoral bodies spending public money on behalf of all Londoners.

In his 13th March response to the new London Plan, the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick has said to Sadiq Khan ‘Critical strategic sites have stalled, epitomised by your Development Corporation in Old Oak and Park Royal being forced to turn away £250 million of Government funding because of your inability to work successfully with the main landowner’.

As many people in the local area will know, the ‘main landowner’ referred to is Cargiant Ltd.  Following a breakdown of relationships between OPDC and Cargiant in 2017, the Corporation pursed a strategy of talking to other potential ‘development partners’ on the assumption that they could assemble the resources needed to ignore Cargiant’s growing reluctance to develop ‘Phase 1’ at Old Oak North.

This route to developing the area came unstuck in September 2019 when the Planning Inspector ‘examining’ the Draft OPDC Local Plan looked into the details of financial viability and concluded this approach was unviable. In December OPDC announced that it was abandoning this core element of its own master planning work, and its Draft Local Plan, and would switch its focus to the ‘Western Lands’ in the area between Wormwood Scrubs and Park Royal.

Under pressure from London Assembly members, OPDC published in January 202o the full documentation which in September 2018 it had submitted to the Government (Ministry of Housing of Local Government) as an application for £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding.

OPDC refused during 2019 to release this material in response to FoI/EIR requests from this Forum and from our neighbours the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum.  OPDC also refused the reveal the all important ‘conditions’ which MHCLG had attached to this provisional funding award. Appeals against these decisions received replies saying that such requests were ‘manifestly unreasonable’.

It is now apparent that more transparency and less secrecy by OPDC might have avoided expenditure of £6.2m of public money by OPDC on a strategy that was extremely high risk, and which could have been halted many months before December 2019.

The London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee will be asking questions to OPDC Chair Liz Peace CBE and David Lunts (acting CEO) on March 18th.  The committee agenda identifies the main point for discussion as being:

“This meeting will focus on the OPDC bid for £250 million of HIF funding. The OPDC’s HIF Bid was published on 20 January 2020. It can be found here https://www.london.gov.uk/aboutus/organisations-we-work/old-oak-and-park-royal-development-corporation-opdc/opdc-structure1/opdc-spending-money-wisely/being-transparent.

The bid details confirm that Car Giant were required for significant housing delivery. The HIF Bid for £250 million was submitted on 10 September 2018, at which stage it would have been clear to the OPDC that Car Giant would not be supporting the development. The Committee will consider if the HIF Bid might reasonably be viewed as a dishonest attempt to secure £250 million of public money”.

Along with the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum, we have long argued that the governance arrangements at the OPDC are weak, in terms of openness and transparency.  See previous posts for details.  With the Mayoral and Assembly elections now deferred for a year from May 7th 2020, these questions will need to pursued further with Mayor Sadiq Khan into his fifth year of office.

 

 

The OPDC’s ‘new focus’ on the ‘Western Lands’

The OPDC Board met on January 30th, for the first time since September 2019.   The big decision to abandon proposals for the Cargiant land was taken ‘in discussion’ with the Mayor of London, with no formal meetings or reports available to the public.

The most useful paper from the January Board meeting is this one New Focus for Old Oak and Park Royal Regeneration (1).  It briefly explains why OPDC abandoned its plans for Old Oak North, attributing this to ‘rising industrial land values’ and the interim findings of Planning Inspector Paul Clark (see our December post).

Since December, we have been trying to work out where OPDC would be looking for alternative sites for major residential development.  The answer is explained in this report.  The focus of OPDC’s attention has shifted westwards from North Hammersmith to the eastern part of LB Ealing.

This area, lying between Wormwood Scrubs and Park Royal, is being badged by OPDC as ‘the Western Land’ (or now Lands).

It includes the existing residential areas of the Railway Cottages, Midland Terrace/Shaftesbury Gardens, and Wells House Road.

It also includes the whole of the 22 hectare Old Oak neighbourhood area.  This central part of the overall OPDC area is one which our Forum has long argued should be a ‘zone of transition’ suitable for mixed use development and without a hard border separating existing residential enclaves from the ‘Strategic Industrial Land’ of Park Royal.

OPDC has commissioned consultants Prior and Partners to carry out some new masterplanning work on this area.  One of their slides as presented to the OPDC Board shows the rough boundary of the Western Lands.

OPDC's new area of focus - the Western Lands
OPDC’s new area of focus – the Western Lands

The three Borough Leaders (Stephen Cowan, Julian Bell and Muhammed Butt were all present at this Board meeting (unusually).  The first two expressed disappointment that the presentation from Prior and Partners lacked detail and felt like ‘back to the beginning’ after five years of the life of the OPDC.  It is far from clear, as yet, which parts of these ‘Western Lands’ the  Development Corporation is now considering as potential housing sites.

Many of the sites that offer prospects for development are already assigned as ‘construction compounds’ for HS2 and have been acquired and cleared for this purpose.  These sites are not due to become available for housebuilding until the HS2/Crossrail interchange is completed.  The earliest completion date is now seen as 2028 rather than 2026.

We met with the OPDC planners and development managers in early February, for what was a useful discussion.  OPDC acknowledge it is very early days for what will be a major rethink of their plans.

No timetable is yet available for the next stages of the OPDC Draft Local Plan, and no date fixed for the required further six week round of public consultation.   OPDC will assemble a set of ‘modifications’ that were being prepared pre December, to meet various requirements of Planning Inspector Paul Clark. These will be combined with the more substantial changes that OPDC will be making as a result of this shift of focus from North Hammersmith to the eastern side of Ealing.

Meanwhile Ealing Council is continuing to grant planning consents on a series of major developments at North Acton.  Since 2015, planning decisions in North Acton have been ‘delegated’ by OPDC to LB Ealing.   This arrangement has now become questionable, given that North Acton forms part of the area defined as the Western Lands.

This has not stopped Ealing’s Planning Committee from recently granting approval to two developments at Portal Way, in North Acton.  The scheme for the Holiday Inn site at 4 Portal Way involves two residential towers of 45 and 55 storeys, with 702 apartments.  Approval has also been given for a further  10 storeys at the City and Docklands development at 6 Portal Way, currently under construction.  This is now also due to be 55 storeys.

Both developments have yet to be assessed by the Mayor of London at ‘Stage 2’ (as is the case for all tall buildings).  With elections looming for the Mayor and London Assembly, the developers and the council seem keen to move at speed – and are paying little or no heed to the OPDC’s rethink on its plans.

Ealing Council officers make little mention of the OPDC in their reports and recommendations on sites at North Acton. The prospects of coherent regeneration of this important part of the OPDC area was probably lost back in 2014, when Ealing Council persuaded then Mayor Boris Johnson to be allowed to continue to do its own thing at North Acton.

This campaign has brought together three existing groups of local residents in Ealing, including Ealing Matters.  London’s public are beginning to pay increased attention to a new spate of high rise buildings, many at extreme densities, which Ealing Council is allowing.  Towers of 55 storeys are entirely new to this part of the capital, and the feeling of ‘who asked us’ is growing among local people.

CGI of North Acton's 'cluster' from the A40 entering London
CGI of North Acton’s future ‘cluster’ from the A40 entering London

OPDC abandons plans to use Cargiant land

In a sudden and unexpected turn of events, a press release from the OPDC On December 13th announced that the Corporation was halting its plans to assemble land at Old Oak North.

This brings to an end the legal tussle between the OPDC and Cargiant Ltd.  In early 2019 Cargiant changed its position and decided to remain on its existing 44 acre site (see previous posts).   The OPDC chose to progress its ‘masterplan’ for Old Oak North, using its powers of compulsory purchase to acquire tracts of Cargiant land.

See for more information at OPDC and Cargiant press statements Dec 2019

The OPDC Board has not met since September 26th 2019 and is not meeting again until January 30th 2020 (a four month gap).  So there has been no report or Board discussion that explains the consequences of this major change of direction by the Corporation.

Abandoning what was to have been ‘Phase 1’ of new development at Old Oak raises many questions.  What alternative sites are now being explored?   How much public money has been spent in pursuing plans for Old Oak North which attracted objections from the start, to the proposed excessive densities and building heights?

OONF and the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum has sent OPDC a list of questions StQW and OONF questions on OPDC new focus.   We hope to have answers before the next OONF and GUA meeting on January 7th.

Either way, we will be ensuring that members of the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee see a copy of our questions before they meet in early January to scrutinise the OPDC Budget submission Dec 2020

The efforts of local neighbourhood forums to gain access to information on OPDC decisions are beginning to bear fruit.  The London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee formally ‘summonsed’ certain documents from OPDC Chair Liz Peace and Interim Chief Executive David Lunts in September 2019.  Committee Chair Gareth Bacon MP AM has now written to Liz Peace, asking for this material to be published London Assembly -OPDC -Letter to Liz Peace

These are the same documents, relating to the Corporation’s 2018 bid for Housing Infrastructure Funding, that OONF and the StQW Neighbourhood Forum have been asking for as Freedom of Information requests, over the past 9 months.

These requests were refused by OPDC as being ‘manifestly unreasonable’.   We look forward to the early publication of these documents, so that we can tell the Information Commissioner to drop our complaint over the OPDC’s failure to disclose them previously.

 

OPDC – a development corporation lacking transparency

Over the past 18 months it has become increasingly hard for the public to gain an understanding of the activities and aims of the OPDC.  Meetings that are open to the public very rarely question or discuss the critical challenges facing the Corporation.  Reports from officers include little detail on these matters.  Much of the decision-making appears to take place in private and informal sessions, or via delegation to OPDC officers.

Questions over the governance of the Corporation have been pursued in depth by the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum.   More information on exchanges of correspondence with OPDC Chair Liz Peace CBE and Interim Chief Exective David Lunts can be found on the StQW Forum website at www.stqw.org 

Efforts by OONF to uncover the content of the OPDC/GLA bid to Government for Housing Infrastructure Funding have so far proved unsuccessful.  OPDC refuses to release a copy of their September 2018 ‘Expression of Interest’ for this funding, under the Freedom of Information Act.   Requests for sight of the conditions attached to this £250m of Government funding, awarded on a provisional basis in March 2019, have also been turned down.

The London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee has become so concerned about the risks that OPDC are incurring that the committee took the unusual step in September 2019 of issuing a legal summons to Liz Peace and David Lunts Agenda item 8a.  This listed a series of documents relating to the HIF bid that London Assembly Members wish to see.

The Committee has been provided with these documents, but has not met since September.  It remains unclear whether part or all of this material will finally be made public.

In the meantime OONF  and the StQW Neighbourhood Forum have referred to the Information Commissioner our concerns over the refusals by the the OPDC to release the HIF Expression of Interest and the funding conditions set by Government.

We believe that the public interest case for disclosure of these documents outweigh the grounds that OPDC and the GLA have put forward for refusing our FoI/EIR requests.  These grounds are a combination of ‘commercial sensitivity’ and the ‘manifest unreasonableness’ of our requests.

The detailed letter to the Information Commissioner, setting out the case for disclosure can be found here  StQW and OONF to ICO 30.11.19

Viability of OPDC Local Plan questioned by Inspector

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

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

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

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

During the London Assembly sessions at which OPDC Chair Liz Peace and Interim Chief Executive David Lunts answered questions, it emerged that the £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding awarded by Government to the OPDC last March remains subject to several ‘challenging’ conditions being met before the grant is paid.  Not least of these conditions is that the OPDC Draft Local Plan is supported by Planning Inspector Paul Clark.

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

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

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

 

 

London Assembly session on OPDC

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

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

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

The main points that emerged from the session were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

London Assembly sessions and OONF briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Extra EIP hearing on June 6th 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Local Plan EIP hearings in April 2019

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

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

The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum gave evidence on several issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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