It has been a slower start than anticipated, but something exciting is starting to happen in west London.
When the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) launched on 1 April 2015, it was tasked with developing a whole new centre and community for London by Boris Johnson (the then Mayor of London).
Anyone involved with the OPDC Opportunity Area would admit, it has had a slow start. This has been principally due to a lack of agreement between the OPDC and Cargiant over land which lies in the middle of the OPDC opportunity area – with the original vision relying on this land to deliver a significant share of the OPDC housing target.
This land will remain as car dealership rather than providing tall residential towers (for now…). The delays in delivery have resulted in heavy criticism, with £50 million spent to date with little visible progress. The OPDC is however undoubtably turning the corner, and it looks like there is no going back.
The OPDC Post Submission Modified draft Local Plan was published in March 2021, which addresses the concerns raised by the removal of the Cargiant land. This is principally through new allocations, such as the North Pole Depot which will deliver 750 homes*. The Local Plan subsequently retains an impressive indicative capacity of 25,500 homes, with aspirations of delivering 19,850 of those homes in the next 20 years.
Even more positively, there is also visible progress on the ground. The Old Oak Common HS2 / Crossrail station will be one of the largest rail hubs in London – and it really is happening. It lies at the heart of the OPDC, with the final details consented in May 2020 and works started shortly after in June 2020. Works are scheduled to complete in 2026, well ahead of HS2’s scheduled opening in 2028. Journey times from Old Oak Common to Euston will be just five minutes, to Birmingham Curzon Street just 31 minutes, and to Manchester Airport only 56 minutes. As with all major projects, it is such connectivity that lies at the heart of kickstarting the regeneration of this area. London’s connectivity is typically measured using Transport for London’s (TfL) Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTALs) maps, with the London Plan (2021) particularly supporting density at anywhere with existing or planned PTALs of 3-6. Information submitted by the OPDC to the Local Plan Examination shows the transformation the Old Oak Common will have in terms of PTAL levels.
But this public investment means nothing if it is not followed up by private confidence. It is the private sector who have to build the homes after all. Thankfully, that is now happening too, and it coincides with some positive changes in leadership at the OPDC. David Lunts has been appointed as Chief Executive in November 2020, while Emma Williamson was appointed as Director of Planning in August 2020 having overseen the delivery of the hugely successful Tottenham Hotspur stadium during her time at Haringey Council.
So far, the OPDC looks like being London’s attempt at a more affordable take on the fast-establishing Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea (VNEB) Opportunity Area. It will however be interesting to see if the pressure to deliver the quantum of homes required by the Local Plan impacts on this going forward. The aspirations do though remain that the OPDC area will be a place that provides a new destination Londoners can really afford to live in.
The catalyst looks to be the area around Scrubs Lane, which acts as the south eastern gateway into the OPDC area and is specifically identified in the Local Plan for early delivery of homes in the next 10 years.
City & Docklands (C&D) are one of those private sector companies placing their faith in the OPDC area, with two separate 200+ dwelling schemes** consented in the last year on Scrubs Lane.
Both C&D schemes will not only bring the homes needed, but perhaps more importantly will deliver a significant amount of ground floor commercial floorspace to activate the OPDC gateway by the Mary Seacole Gardens. It is not just more false starts either, C&D commenced at Mitre Yard in January 2021, and North Kensington Gate (South) will not be far behind.
With London eager to open up again, the OPDC might be gaining momentum at just the right time.
* Quod acted on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) to secure an allocation for 750 at the North Pole Depot
** Quod acted as planning lead for Mitre Yard and North Kensington Gate (South) on behalf of City & Docklands