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.