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Victoria Hills: ‘I expect a design competition for a landmark HS2 station’

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Victoria Hills, chief executive officer of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), on the UK’s largest regeneration project

Describe your role within the OPDC
We are only at week 17 of OPDC’s existence, so it’s very early days, but it’s very exciting because we are at the start of what will be the UK’s largest regeneration project.

My first priority is to establish a strong planning framework because we are now the local planning authority. As we don’t own any land, my second priority is to adopt a land strategy so we can gain direct influence over the development of the 650ha site, which includes a significant amount of publicly-owned brownfield land. My third priority will be to secure funding for the significant amount of infrastructure required.

What is the vision for the district and how will it help solve London’s housing crisis?
The London Mayor’s vision is to deliver a new piece of London with 24,000 homes and 55,000 jobs served by 10 rail lines, including HS2 and Crossrail.

The project will be a catalyst for wider regeneration while preserving and enhancing the area’s significant amounts of industrial employment and treasuring valuable existing open-space assets.

We will be thinking about how we deliver the housing that London needs and using guidance for developers in our local plan to set out what sort of housing we would like. At this early stage, however, we are still developing our model and don’t have any fixed views on what might be the right answer.

What stage are you at in recruiting architects for key roles? Will there be an overall masterplanner and design review panel?
We are about to procure someone to run our design review panel, and we expect to recruit individual panellists in the next few months. We don’t have a lead designer, but if in the future we develop our own buildings or work with development partners we will need to recruit some in-house design ability.

Old_Oak_and_Park_Royal

What further opportunities will there be for architects to work with OPDC? Are design competitions on the horizon?
I expect there will be a design competition for a showcase landmark building for the HS2 station. Private developers may also run contests for their sites, and there are other bodies – and we are one of them – that may hold design competitions, but it would be a couple of years away.

How will you maintain design quality throughout the project?
It will take 20 to 30 years to complete the project and the design review panel will be key. As the organisation evolves we will also need someone to lead on everyday design issues.

We see architecture as an opportunity to design some inspirational buildings. Frank Gehry’s designs for housing near Battersea Power Station are amazing and we want something even better at Old Oak.

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