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