Sadiq Khan has ordered a review of the development company set up to deliver the £26 billion Old Oak regeneration in west London.
The newly elected London mayor claims his predecessor Boris Johnson may have ‘rushed into [a] deal without doing the due diligence checks’ and has launched an immediate investigation of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).
The regeneration body, which was only set up in April 2015, has full planning powers within a 650ha area covering land in the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Ealing and Brent.
The shock move comes less than a day after Khan called for an audit of the capital’s 31 housing zones in a bid to increase the availability of affordable homes in new developments.
The proposals at Old Oak Common for 25,500 homes around a new High Speed 2 and Crossrail station have already come under fire from Terry Farrell who, in March, warned the huge project was heading for disaster.
Farrell has welcomed Khan’s review, which will scrutinise the terms of a memorandum of understanding agreed in March this year, which paved the way for the OPDC to take ownership of public land surrounding the proposed new station.
The mayor has also raised concerns about how much it will cost to make the land viable for development, potentially affecting the amount of genuinely affordable homes the scheme would deliver for Londoners.
Commenting on the review, the mayor’s office said: ’The mayor also believes that Boris Johnson may have rushed into this deal without doing the due diligence checks that would be expected, particularly regarding existing land ownerships and other technical planning requirements.
‘This agreement was signed against a backdrop of major government investment in other locations along the HS2 route, including Birmingham and the regeneration of Ebbsfleet, and Sadiq Khan wants to make sure London is getting a similarly favourable deal.’
The review will consult residents, and will consider how to ensure residential development delivers a mix of affordable housing types. It will also investigate constraints to development, the level of support committed by central government to date, and where additional support might be appropriate.
The review is expected to be completed within two months.
Deputy mayor for housing James Murray said: ’Although it will be the early 2020s before any significant numbers of new homes are built, we need to act now to ensure this project benefits as many Londoners as possible, as quickly as possible.
‘This review will take a detailed look at past decisions made by Boris Johnson and at the future direction of the development corporation. We are particularly keen to hear from industry experts who can help us ensure that this scheme delivers maximum value for Londoners.’
In an interview with the AJ’s sister title Construction News in February, OPDC chief executive Victoria Hills said she wanted as much control over the area as possible and to develop a good proportion of affordable housing for the area, rather than leaving it up to developers.
Bidding for the multi-billion-pound construction packages for HS2’s four phase-one stations, including at Old Oak Common, is due to get under way at the start of 2018.
On Monday (20 June), Atkins announced it had been named as the project’s sustainability adviser.
Terry Farrell of Farrells
Old Oak is one of the best opportunities in London to deliver on the new mayor’s vision for housing. We welcome the review and look forward to contributing to it based on our knowledge and experience of the site.
Geoff Springer, Cargiant’s development partner at Old Oak Park
Old Oak is the largest single regeneration opportunity anywhere in London, and it is absolutely right that the new mayoral administration undertakes this review to ensure that the correct decisions are being taken now which will impact successful delivery in the years to come.
As the largest private land owner within the regeneration area, we look forward to playing our part in this review and in ensuring that we deliver at Old Oak Park an exceptional new piece of London, providing homes and jobs for Londoners and genuine benefits for existing communities around us.
His comments comes in an interview in the London’s Evening Standard, in which he calls the £10billion Old Oak Common project a victim of in-fighting among politicians.
‘If a tenth of the energy he put into the Boris island airport idea had gone into Old Oak Common I feel sure it would have happened without a problem,’ he told the paper.
The 40 hectare Old Oak Common in west London currently houses scores of railway lines, sidings and depots south of the Grand Union Canal as well as industrial estates.
Farrell’s attack follows five years of lobbying for changes to the development, including space for pilings to support decking for 12,000 homes to the south of the site.
Current plans include 25,000 homes, alongside space for offices and retailers.
‘We’ve been trying to influence and lobby for five years,’ Farrell told the paper. “But everyone had just talked and talked, it’s just been pass the parcel,’ he added. ‘This is probably the biggest cock-up that I’ve seen in my career of 50 years in London.’
Last year the mayor set up the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), chaired by deputy mayor Eddie Lister, to manage the project.
A spokesman for Johnson said: ’The mayor, OPDC, Transport for London and the government are working together to ensure the full regeneration potential of this site is unlocked.’
’Over time, this site can provide 65,000 new jobs and 25,500 badly needed homes. This development will be brought forward, but needs to be delivered in a way that does not delay or disrupt Crossrail, which is critical to meeting London’s transport challenge.’
The idea of a ‘super hub’ at Old Oak Common to join up HS2 with Crossrail, the London Overground and the West Coast Main Line was originally devised by Farrell in 2011 (see AJ 15.08.11) after his practice was commissioned by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to create a vision for the area.