The £1 billion Old Oak Common regeneration project in west London risks being derailed as challenges facing the project stack up, according to a London Assembly committee
A design team led by AECOM with Asif Khan, BIG, Maccreanor Lavington and WilkinsonEyre was appointed in 2017 to masterplan the huge former industrial site, which centres around a new rail interchange.
However the scheme is facing significant hurdles before it can progress, including reaching an agreement on the area’s local plan, not expected until at least the end of the year.
The proposed local plan has been challenged by Cargiant, a major owner of land earmarked for the development, which has called the proposals for 25,000 homes ‘unviable’.
These uncertainties over the flagship scheme were exposed last week (4 July) when the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation’s (OPDC) appeared before the London Assembly’s budget and performance committee.
It also emerged that two overground stations, Old Oak Common and Hythe Road are likely to be scrapped, with OPDC chair Liz Peace saying the transport hubs were ‘off the table’.
Following the meeting, committee chair Gareth Bacon said there were concerns over whether TfL could afford the new stations given the ‘growing black hole in its finances’.
Bacon also criticised the OPDC’s lack of leadership, its row with Cargiant, a lack of funding and ‘question marks’ over the future of HS2.
‘The OPDC has been without a permanent chief executive for over a year and relations between the corporation and Cargiant, the largest private landowner in Old Oak, have deteriorated to a significant extent,’ he said.
Relations between Cargiant and the OPDC have deteriorated to a significant extent
At the meeting, Peace refused to reveal to assembly members what conditions the scheme had to meet to secure its crucial £250 million of Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF), awarded in March.
In order to allow it to keep progressing, the OPDC needs an interim payment from the London mayor to cover costs of ongoing work. Peace said she expected a Mayoral Direction on this within the next two weeks.
And on 18 July the planning inspector holds its final hearing to review the local plan. Getting the plan approved was one of the HIF conditions that Peace was willing to confirm.
The meeting also discussed how dialogue between Cargiant and the OPDC had broken down. OPDC’s interim chief executive David Lunts said: ‘It’s fair to say that Cargiant and the development corporation are not entirely aligned in terms of our planning and development objectives.’
Lunts said he hoped that negotiations would result in an agreement with Cargiant, but said compulsory purchase was being planned as ‘a backstop’.
In response to Bacon’s criticism, Lunts said: ‘OPDC understand there is a good business case for both of the proposed new Overground stations at Hythe Road and Old Oak Common, but we acknowledge that TfL have no budget to meet the costs in their current business plan.
‘We will be working with TfL to find alternative future funding sources but in the meantime OPDC’s plans remain on track.’
A spokesperson for the mayor of London, said: ‘Old Oak is a complex site that requires careful planning and investment and the mayor is working closely with OPDC and other agencies to bring forward redevelopment.
‘He is disappointed that Cargiant is looking to frustrate this scheme but is keen to work with all landowners to deliver the new homes and jobs that the city needs.’
Meanwhile Alex Williams, TfL’s director of City Planning, said: ’There is a good business case and strong public support for the two potential new London Overground stations at Old Oak to support the regeneration of this Opportunity Area.
’The proposals are subject to funding being secured and we are currently seeking a package that could enable the stations to be delivered by 2026’
In February, plans were unveiled for WilkinsonEyre and engineer WSP’s proposed Old Oak Common interchange, billed as the ‘best-connected rail station’ in the country.
The huge, so-called ‘super hub’ in west London includes subterranean platforms for High Speed 2 (HS2) services to Birmingham and beyond, as well as linking up with Elizabeth Line routes into central London and Heathrow Airport.