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OPDC abandons plans for Cargiant land at Old Oak North

In a sudden and unexpected turn of events, a press release from the OPDC On December 13th announced that the Corporation was halting its plans to assemble land at Old Oak North.

This brings to an end the legal tussle between the OPDC and Cargiant Ltd.  In early 2019 Cargiant dropped its own plans for housing development (badged as ‘Old Oak Park’ and decided to remain as a business on its    existing 45 acre site. 

Despite this decisions, the OPDC chose to progress its own ‘masterplan’ for Old Oak North, making use of its powers of compulsory purchase to acquire tracts of Cargiant land.

10 months later, OPDC has recognised that its land assembly proposals were unworkable. 

The OPDC Board has not met since September 26th 2019 and is not meeting again until January 30th 2020 (a four month gap).  So there has been no report or Board discussion that explains the consequences of this major change of direction by the Corporation. 

OONF and the StQW Forum has sent the OPDC a list of questions.

We will be ensuring that members of the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee see a copy of our questions before they meet in early January to scrutinise the OPDC Budget submission for 2020/21.    While the OPDC is scaling back its budget for next year, the fact remains that much public money has already been spent on preparing a Local Plan which now has to be substantially revised, along with consultancy costs on site assembly which is now wasted.

We will post more news as it becomes available.

OPDC secrecy on Housing Infrastructure Funding

Our previous post on governance of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation set out the content of correspondence between this Forum and the Corporation, in the period up to August 2019.

Since then there have been further developments. The OPDC Draft Local Plan has continued to be ‘examined’ for ‘soundness’ by Planning Inspector Paul Clark.

An interim report from the Inspector in September required the removal from the Draft Plan of the Cargiant land at Old Oak North. Cargiant wish to remain on their present site, and the Inspector judged OPDC proposal for compulsory purchase of their land as unviable and inappropriate in planning terms.

OPDC now has to make substantial revisions to its Draft Local Plan. These changes are due to be consulted on early in 2020. Final adoption of the Local Plan appears still to be many months away.

In the meantime both the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum and the StQW Forum have been trying to obtain copies of the OPDC ‘Expression of Interest’ for £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF). We would like to know how this funding is intended to be used by the OPDC ‘delivery arm’.

We would also like to see the conditions that the Government attached to the provisional award of this funding, in March 2019. OPDC and GLA have turned down FoI requests to release both the HIF bid and the conditions, and these refusal decisions have now been referred to the Information Commissioner (see at http://oldoakneighbourhoodforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/StQW-and-OONF-to-ICO-30.11.19.pdf)

The London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee is now taking a closer interest in the activities and expenditure of the Corporation and we hope that forthcoming meetings on GLA budgets will lead to a fuller airing of the risks and challenges faced by OPDC.

The most recent correspondence on governance issues, between the StQW Forum and OPDC (David Lunts, Interim Chief Executive) is posted below

Letter from StQW to OPDC David Lunts on the lack of officer reports or discussion of critical issues at the OPDC Board meeting held on September 26th 2019 (which had been immediately preceded by a ‘private’ session before the public were admitted to the room).

Email response from David Lunts to Henry Peterson 09.12.19

Email response from Henry Peterson to David Lunts 10.12. 2019

OPDC governance: the questions being asked

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation is a body set up by the Mayor of London. In April 2015 the OPDC took over planning powers from three London Boroughs, for the large ‘Opportunity Area’ that stretches from Park Royal in the west to Wood Lane in the east.

Our Forum has taken a close interest in the actions and decisions of the OPDC, over the past 4 years. The Mayoral plans for the area (which dates from Boris Johnson’s era as Mayor) are to create 24,000 new homes at Old Oak, and 65,000 new jobs. This is London’s largest regeneration area, and is on North Kensington’s doorstep.

The OPDC is run by a Board of individuals appointed by the Mayor. Although these include the Leaders of the three Boroughs involved (Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham) the Corporation has never felt sufficiently accountable to local people.

Back in 2015 the StQW Forum worked with residents groups in and around the Old Oak area to set up an Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum (OONF). Both StQW and OONF have since questioned and challenged the more extreme proposals that have emerged within the Draft Local Plan that has been prepared by the Corporation. The website of OONF at www.oldoakneighbourhoodforum.org gives information on the long series of consultations on the OPDC Draft Local Plan.

This is not a battle between NIMBY residents resisting change, versus a development corporation trying to meet London’s housing needs. Old Oak needs redevelopment, but in the form of good quality and livable homes for all generations.

The local opposition to OPDC proposals is part of a wider debate about planning the future of London. Recent research by the Grosvenor Estate shows the extent to which any public trust in the motives of developers and the decisions of local planning authorities has largely disappeared.

This post gives details of an extended exchange of correspondence between the StQW Neighbourhood Forum and the Chair of the OPDC Board, Liz Peace CBE.

The Forum’s concerns about the governance arrangements at the OPDC date back many months. Some of the detail in our letters may seem trivial and an example of local residents nitpicking at a successful public body. We see the issues raised in this correspondence as indicators of deeper institutional failings and an organisational culture resistant to outside challenge.

We also see a pattern in which OPDC and the Mayor of London’s Office have reacted – belatedly and after the event – to comments and questions on the Corporation’s governance arrangements and its level of transparency with the public. The resultant improvements to governance have come only after external prompting – from London Assembly Members, from landowner Cargiant, and from ourselves.

As a Mayoral Development Corporation, the OPDC is subject to most of the governance and transparency requirements that apply to a London Borough Council. Board members and OPDC officials do not always seem familiar with these.

In recent weeks the London Assembly has held two sessions at which OPDC Board Chair Liz Peace and OPDC Interim Chief Executive David Lunts have faced serious questions about the overall approach adopted by the Corporation at Old Oak. The most significant of these relate to the financial risks to the GLA as parent body, and to all Londoners whose Council Tax precepts fund the Mayoral ‘family’ of London-wide bodies.

Our first letter to Liz Peace on the subject of OPDC’s governance dates from October 2018. The well publicised scandal at Westminster City Hall, where the Chair of the Planning Committee had accepted excessive hospitality from developers, had rung alarm bells. A subsequent independent investigation revealed a similar culture within Westminster’s Planning Department of officers routinely accepting hospitality from the several specialist lobbying firms and planning consultancies which have become a feature of the London development industry.

We also wanted to know more about how the OPDC operates its pre-application advice service to developers, and how often it uses Planning Performance Agreements.

The reply from Liz Peace (dated 29th November) answered some but not all of our questions. On December 22nd 2018 we tried a further request with a list of specific questions. These covered the use of Planning Performance Agreements on named schemes that had been granted planning permission, queries on the OPDC Code of Conduct, on the nature of the ‘application files’ held by OPDC, and the extent to which individual planning officers take the lead on lengthy pre-application negotiations while subsequently writing reports and recommendations for the OPDC Planning Committee (with the risk of ‘capture’ by developers, an issue which has caused public concern elsewhere in London).

A further reply from Liz Peace came on 29th January 2019, with apologies for the delay. This explained that 7 of the 9 major applications approved by OPDC had been the subject of Planning Performance Agreements, and that the officer conducting these negotiations was indeed normally the author of the subsequent recommendations to committee.

OPDC promised to remedy the fact that some of the Registers of Interest of Planning Committee members had not appeared on their website. Liz Peace also acknowledged that the OPDC website was not clear about the use of PPAs and what is involved in this form of (costly) pre-application advice paid for by developers. More information has since been added to the OPDC website.

On March 22nd 2019 we wrote again to Liz Peace. This letter was prompted by the news that David Lunts, the GLA’s Executive Director of Housing and Land, has been appointed as a part-time Interim Chief Executive at the OPDC. Recruitment of a new chief executive had been triggered by the departure of Mick Mulhern, the former Director of Planning at OPDC who had himself been acting up as as chief executive ever since the departure of Victoria Hills in early 2018.

We questioned whether there might be a conflict of interest between the role at the GLA of David Lunts in promoting GLA land assembly and regeneration projects, while also heading up OPDC as a statutory planning authority making objective and neutral decisions on major applications.

Our misgivings about OPDC operating as a combined ‘delivery body’ and planning authority were sharpened by a letter sent by Mr Lunts to the Planning Inspector responsible for examining the OPDC Draft Local Plan. It felt to us that roles were becoming blurred.

Our letter also followed up on a list of negative perceptions of how OPDC was ‘engaging’ with local residents. These were drawn from the views of members of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum and the Grand Union Alliance, and had been discussed in February at a meeting between Liz Peace and Henry Peterson (StQW Forum chair and volunteer adviser to the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum).

The next reply from Liz Peace was dated 24th April and gave assurances that there were clear divisions between the ‘delivery arm’ of OPDC and its role as planning authority. It is notable that after this letter was sent the OPDC Board on 30th May 2019 agreed a new protocol for staff aimed at ensuring that this separation of roles is maintained.

On 7th May, a further letter from the Forum focused mainly on the OPDC’s approach to community engagement. In autumn 2018 the membership of the OPDC Board had been ‘refreshed’. Certain members (including the one individual appointed in 2015 as the sole ‘community board member’) were not re-appointed for a further 3 year term.

Three new Board members had been appointed, following adverts for these positions. OPDC and the Mayor’s Office were sending out confusing and contradictory messages about the community links and ‘representative’ role of these individuals. The view of OONF was (and remains) that none of these individuals have yet made efforts to learn about the views and concerns of local people, ten months into their term of office.

Liz Peace responded on 7th June. This letter said that some further gaps in information on the OPDC website, relating to Registers of Interest of Board members and the OPDC Gifts and Hospitality Register were being remedied. On the question of the OPDC’s community engagement activities, differences of view remained as previously.

Requests for more information about the OPDC’s ‘masterplan’ for Old Oak North, in several of the StQW letters, had been met with promises of consultation sessions ‘in the summer’. By June 2019, GLA Assembly members were asking questions on the same subject. In particular, there was concern at the almost complete lack of information on the content of the GLA’s application to Government for £250m of Housing Infrastructure Funding to finance preparatory works at Old Oak North.

First applied for back in September 2017, this funding was finally approved by Government in March 2019. London Assembly Members wanted to know how these funds would be spent. It also emerged at a session of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee on June 11th that this £250m grant award remains subject to a series of ‘challenging’ conditions. The GLA is being expected to underwrite the risk that these conditions (which also remain confidential) may never be met.

The planning context for Old Oak was meanwhile changing fast. In February, landowners Cargiant had announced that they were abandoning their plans for major redevelopment of their site as a housing-led scheme for ‘Old Oak Park’. This called in question the viability and realism of OPDC’s housing targets for the area.

Cargiant called for an immediate halt to further spending and consultant appointments and a full inquiry into the spending and strategy of the OPDC before any more money is wasted and jobs are lost. There is no sign of such an inquiry happening, although the London Assembly is now scrutinising the OPDC more closely and the Mayor is being asked more questions by Assembly Members.

Following the Plenary session of the Assembly on July 4th, at which Liz Peace and David Lunts answered further questions from Assembly Members, the StQW Forum wrote again on July 9th with queries about the HIF application and the conditions applied to this Government grant. A month later, there has been no response to this letter.

The Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum has been pursuing a FoI/EIR request for sight of the HIF bid since last March. This has been resisted by OPDC and GLA and a further appeal is in progress. London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon has also asked the Mayor why this document, passing between regional and central government, has not been made public? She has been given the same inadequate answer as sent to the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum.

The Mayor’s Office seem to be waking up to the fact that the OPDC is under closer public scrutiny with more and more questions being asked. These questions are coming from Assembly Members, from Cargiant, and from local groups including the StQW Neighbourhood Forum and the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum.

As a result, a Mayoral Decision MD2502 on ‘Governance Directions’ for the two Mayoral Development Corporations was approved on July 29th 2019. The report states that these new governance requirements placed on the OPDC will provide an enhanced degree of scrutiny and accountability for the decisions and activities of the Corporation following its successful HIF bid. A series of new checks and conditions, involving endorsement by senior GLA officials on behalf of the Mayor, will in future apply to OPDC decision-making,

The covering report claims that these new measures result from an internal audit review of the OPDC’s ‘oversight and governance‘. No such review features in the regular progress reports from the relevant GLA internal audit team to the OPDC’s Audit and Risk Committee. So who knows what has prompted these new ‘Governance Directions’? Probably a combination of questions being asked from several directions.

In our latest letter of 9th August, we have chosen to write this time to GLA Executive Director Resources Martin Clarke. He is one of two senior officials at the GLA who will be responsible for ensuring that the new Governance Directions are observed by OPDC. As before we have copied our letter to Assembly Members from each of the political parties on the Assembly, and to Liz Peace and David Lunts at the OPDC.

As noted at the start of this post, the pattern that we see is of OPDC and GLA reacting to concerns raised with the OPDC Chair and/or Board members, but on each occasion after the event. The latest Mayoral Decision takes matters to a new level. The report claims that the internal audit review of OPDC governance arrangements found ‘audit assurance‘ of OPDC to be ‘substantial, the highest level‘.

We cannot agree with this conclusion, and believe that this GLA internal audit team (the prime function of which is to audit MOPAC the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) is missing the bigger picture. Achievement of the original planning ‘vision’ for Old Oak now looks to be fraught with obstacles and uncertainties. The OPDC Local Plan has yet been found ‘sound’ and ‘effective’ with Planning Inspector Paul Clark having to assess major questions over viability. Much public money continues to be spent by OPDC in the meantime.

The OPDC has declined a suggestion from Cargiant for a 3 month pause to negotiate over landholdings. Meanwhile the Mayor has approved the drawdown of a further £10m of expenditure in this financial year by OPDC on preparatory work related to the HIF grant — the detailed content of which is still being kept from the public and the London Assembly.

With the HS2 project under review, an uncertain Brexit outcome, and London population forecasts on a downward trend, the justification for hyper-dense housing development at Old Oak is increasingly questionable. Local people want to see a new community at Old Oak that proves successful in the long-term as a sustainable new part of London.

We fear a repeat of other regeneration projects in the capital that have proved over-ambitious, misjudge the housing market, and leave new arrivals isolated in residential towers with poor public transport access and inadequate education, health and social facilities. We may be proved wrong, but this is the direction in which plans for Old Oak have been heading for the last 2 years.

May 2019 – two important consultations

We will be discussing responses from the Forum to both these consultations at our next open meeting on June 5th at 8pm at St Helens Church hall, St Helens Gardens W10.

Linford Christie Stadium

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is consulting until 12th June on the future of Linford Christie Stadium, the area at the south-east end of Wormwood Scrubs. The three options put forward by the Council have significant implications for our neighbourhood. Details of the consultation are at this link

Linford Christie Stadium

The stadium has been leased for many years to Thames Valley Harriers and run as an athletics club. Adjacent sports pitches are used by local clubs including the Kensington Dragons youth teams.

The site is part of the Scrubs and has strong protection from development, given its designation as Metropolitan Open Land.

Option 1 of ‘do nothing’ to the stadium is unlikely to be the outcome. The Council is clear that it is unwilling to invest in reparing and upgrading the fabric of the buildings and other facilities.

Option 2 of creating a form of ‘community stadium’ and sports facility is strongly supported by the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs. This could potentially be a ‘not for profit’ venture, involving Imperial College who are interested in providing local sports facilities for their White City campus. Hammersmith Hospital, located next to the stadium, would also favour an option that does not impact excessively on their patients.

Option 3 would be for the Council itself to redevelop the site, probably with a development partner. As described in the consultation exercise, this option would be for a ‘performance venue of c.45,000 seats which could accommodate football and other sports, plus an new athletics track, stand and other facilities’.

QPR Football Club continues to campaign to relocate to the Linford Christie site, from its present base at Loftus Road. The Club is arguing the case for a 35,000 seat stadium, to be leased or purchased from the Council. The Club has published its own response to the LBHF consultation.

No images have been published by the Council or by QPR on what a 45,000 or 35,000 seat stadium would look like, in terms of height, massing or visual impact on the area.

QPR have previously published an analysis of what they claim to be the economic benefits of the club remaining in the Borough. But this noticeably lacked any information on the impact on the local public transport system of 35,000 or 45.000 people arriving at and leaving the site, either for football matches or for ‘performance’ events such as rock concerts.

Transport for London consultation on Wood Lane improvements and cycle lane

Transport for London are consulting until 16th June on a series of proposed road improvements for Holland Park Avenue, Notting Hill Gate, Shepherds Bush Green and Wood Lane. The last of these has the greatest potential impact on our neighbourhood.

The details of the consultation are at this link. The proposals include the creation of a segregated cycleway along Wood Lane, between North Pole Road and Shepherds Bush Green. Other changes to pavement and road layouts are planned, designed to improve safety for pedestrians and to encourage walking and cycling.

CGI image of Wood Lane proposals

These changes inevitably reduce the available road space for vehicles. along what is already a heavily congested route. TfL have published estimated effects on journey times, as part of the consultation material. We will be discussing at our open meeting on the 5th June whether local cyclists and drivers see the proposals as workable, and what impact on traffic they would have if implemented.

Autumn 2018 update on plans for Old Oak

For our neighbourhood, the biggest planning issues on the horizon stem from the ambitious plans for regeneration of the area to our immediate north-west.  This is the area for which the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) has been the planning authority since April 2015, taking over planning functions from LB Hammersmith & Fulham..

The Corporation is accountable ultimately to the Mayor of London.  The ‘opportunity area’ involved is the site for the HS2/Queen Elizabeth line rail interchange, and for an intended 25,000 new homes.

The StQW Forum has been involved since 2015 in working with local groups to help local people understand the implications of what is the UK’s largest regeneration area.  For the last 3 years we have questioned the basis of the 24,000 housing target for Old Oak, set in the 2015 London Plan.   This target was created as part of ‘vision’ for this part of London put together by Boris Johnson as the former Mayor of London.  He badged the project as ‘the Canary Wharf of the West’.

We have yet to find any local residents in and around the Old Oak area who support this vision, or who favour such extreme change to this part of London.   Along with local organisations the Hammersmith Society and the Grand Union Alliance, the StQW Forum co-signed a letter to the OPDC Board prior to their 29th September 2018 meeting.  This was the meeting which signed off the OPDC Draft Local Plan prior to submission to the Secretary of State.

A copy of out letter can be found at this link Sept 28 2018 Planning Matters Addendum 2.  While included on the agenda for the OPDC Board meeting, these reiterated concerns of local people were not mentioned in the Board’s discussion.  The next chance we have to raise these issues will be at the Examination in Public of the OPDC Local Plan.  This will take place in late 2018 or early 2019.

Changes made to the OPDC Local Plan

During 2018, the Board of the OPDC has found it necessary to make significant changes to its plans.   Responses to the consultation on its 19.1 Draft Local Plan, as submitted by HS2, Transport for London, and major landowners identified insuperable obstacles to early development of ‘Old Oak South’ (the area around the planned HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line interchange).

As a result, any plans and policies for this part of the OPDC area have been removed from the version of the Local Plan as submitted to the Secretary of State in October 2018.   The focus for early development is now on ‘Old Oak North’, the area made up of the Cargiant/London and Regional Properties landholding along with Scrubs Lane.

This is the area for which a consortium commissioned by OPDC (and led by AECOM) has been carrying out detailed masterplanning.  This work has included costing of major infrastructure proposals and testing of transport routes and development capacity.

The public were originally told that information on this masterplanning exercise would be made available in late 2017.  No such information has emerged, albeit that some of the results of the AECOM work have been fed into one of the ‘supporting studies’ for the Local Plan.

This is a document entitled Old Oak North Development Framework Principles.   As a ‘supporting study’ the document offers ‘planning guidance’ but does not form part of the draft statutory development plan.  But as we have found with the previous ‘Development Principles’ document for Scrubs Lane, the OPDC Planning Committee will no doubt treat these ‘principles’ as ’emerging policy’ and will place reliance on them when deciding planning applications at Old Oak North.

The section of this document dealing with development capacity (page 47) explains that the masterplan work identifies a total development capacity of 7,300 news homes and 73,000 sqm (Net Internal Area) of economic floorspace.  It goes on to say The development capacity of Old Oak North will result in the delivery of a range high densities across this place. The average density will be 600 units per hectare. This will vary across the place in response to public transport access, sensitive locations and site specific circumstances. These densities are of a scale that have only recently been delivered in London and will contribute to the form of a new London typology.

The reference to densities of a scale only recently delivered in London we believe to relate to the Isle of Dogs and parts of the Vauxhall/Nine Elms area.  The St George Wharf Tower in Vauxhall is one of the tallest residential buildings in London today (at 50 storeys and 181 metres height).  The Landmark Pinnacle residential tower at Canary Wharf (under construction) will be 75 storeys.

Six of the tallest residential buildings in Western Europe with planning permission are due to appear in the Isle of Dogs, Blackwall and South Poplar Opportunity Area (a Mayoral OA, as is the OPDC area).

From Landmark Pinnacle marketing brochure, Canary Wharf
From Landmark Pinnacle marketing brochure, Canary Wharf

Is this the ‘new London typology’ of built forms now due to arrive at Old Oak North?   Is this what west Londoners have asked for, in consultation responses on the OPDC Local Plan?

The proposals for ‘Old Oak Park‘ as consulted on by Cargiant/London & regional Properties in 2015 and 2016, did not involve buildings of this height.  In several meetings with London and Regional Properties and their design team, we were told that there might be a few towers of around 40 storeys and the remainder of the housing at lower heights.

The residential towers granted permission to date by OPDC in Scrubs lane are in the 20-25 storey range.   The Imperial College tower in Wood Lane, at 35 storeys, is the one and only very tall building in this part of London to date.

The final draft of the OPDC Local Plan provides very little information on building heights.   The whole plan is premised on ‘transit oriented high density living’ in order to achieve a 25,000 housing target set (with very little analysis) back in 2015.   But anyone reading through all the plan documentation will find nothing that provides an honest assessment of likely building heights.

OPDC draft policies state simply that ‘tall buildings’ will be ‘appropriate’ at certain locations.   Even the specific separate Tall Buildings Statement says Identifying general heights of tall buildings is not considered to be appropriate at this time.   Given that the Draft Local Plan has now been signed off by the OPDC Board and submitted to Government, it is not clear what other moment will be more ‘appropriate’ for some honesty and openness on this issue.

CGI image of Cargiant's proposals for Old Oak Park
CGI image of Cargiant’s proposals for Old Oak Park

Cargiant/London & Regional Properties have had their masterplanning work on hold for many months (their last public consultation was in July 2016).   How they now view the prospects for development of their landholding remains to be seen.   No construction work has started on the three major developments approved by OPDC in Scrubs Lane (North Kensington Gate, Mitre Yard, and 2 Scrubs Lane).  The London property market is flat at best, and falling in parts of Hammersmith and in Kensington.

Once the dates are known for the Examination in Public of the OPDC Local Plan, the StQW Forum will prepare our evidence to give to the Planning Inspector.   OPDC decisions attract little London-wide public attention at present, and the EIP should provide a focus for wider interest and debate on the future of this part of London.

 

OPDC publishes third version of its Draft Local Plan

The area for which the Old Oak and Park Royal Development is the local planning authority lies to the north west of the StQW neighbourhood area.  Hence we have taken a close interest in the plans of the OPDC.  This is London’s largest regeneration area and the site of the planned HS2 and Queen Elizabeth Line rail interchange.

The OPDC plans to build 25,000 new homes at Old Oak, at very high densities.  This Forum residents believe this target to be too high, and that the outcome risks being a long-term planning failure – hugely damaging to this part of London.

OPDC Local plan 19.2 Key Diagram

 

 

 

The OPDC has been preparing a Local Plan since the Corporation first took over planning responsibilities for parts of Brent, Ealing, and Hammersmith & Fulham Boroughs back in April 2015.  A ‘Regulation 18’ and ‘Regulation 19’ version of the Local Plan have already been consulted on. Major changes were sought during these consultations.  HS2, the Mayor and GLA, and Transport for London pointed out that parts of the Draft Local Plan, relating to sites at and around the planned HS2 station, were not realistic.  Major depots and other infrastructure on these sites cannot be relocated or built over, within the 2018-38 plan period.  The topography of the land also constrains development.

As a result the OPDC is consulting on a third Draft Plan.  The main changes affect the area termed ‘Old Oak South’ but there have also been significant other changes on the proposed street network and transport routes.

One element that has not changed is the 25,000 housing target, which dates from a set of revisions to the London Plan adopted in 2015.  Very little justification for this target was provided when first added to the London Plan.  Despite this, it has been treated ever since as an unalterable parameter in subsequent Draft Local Plans.

Subsequent modelling of development capacity across the OPDC area has shown that this target can be met only be building homes at extreme high densities.   The latest OPDC Draft Local Plan acknowledges an average density of 450 units/hectare across the various development sites in the plan.  This rises to 650 units per hectare in ‘Old Oak North’, where most of the land is owned by Cargiant/London & Regional Properties.

As this latest version of the Local plan is beginning to acknowledge, these very high densities  will require ‘a new London typology‘ in terms of built forms (i.e. intensive clusters of very tall towers and ‘shoulder blocks’.  A study of the Old Oak proposals by a team from Cambridge and Berkeley University points out that current OPDC proposals are ‘more akin to residential densities in Shanghai or Hong Kong than the densest parts of London’.

Quite way this part of London should be planned in this way is not explained, beyond bland statements that ‘London needs more housing’.  There are no proposals for radical improvement to the local road network, already highly congested.  Much faith is placed in the ‘connectivity’ available to new residents (post 2016) from the new station interchange.  Two new Overground stations are also promised as ‘potential’ additions to the local transport system, but no funds have yet been secured to construct these (at £150-200m apiece).

The OPDC consultation webpage, with links the Draft Plan and extensive Supporting Studies is at this link.   The StQW Forum will be responding to the consultation.  Our previous 2017 response to the Regulation 19 OPDC Local Plan can be seen here StQW response to OPDC Reg 19 Plan.

 

Latimer Road – a time for some new ideas?

One of the original aims of setting up this neighbourhood forum was to revitalise Latimer Road.   Ever since the construction of the Westway, this street has not flourished as a part of the Freston/Latimer Employment Zone, one of the Borough’s only three such zones.

Public transport access to the area is poor, and the street lacks the cafes, coffee shops and eating places that office locations need (although the arrival of the bar at the Playground Theatre has helped).  Low footfall on the street makes it less secure for residents.

New policies in the StQW Neighbourhood provide greater flexibility on permissible planning uses in the four sections of the street designated for employment use (see map below).   There is scope for Units-14 to redevelop with housing above the employment floorspace at ground and mezzanine level.

Latimer Road map, showing sections of the EZ (in purple) and location for proposed Overground station at ‘Western Circus’

The long delays on construction of the proposed pedestrian/cycle underpass between the southern end of Latimer Road and the Imperial campus in Wood Lane has not helped matters.  We are promised that Imperial College remains committed to this project, to be delivered by the third quarter of 2019.

Now in summer 2018, the Council has expressed interest in some new planning initiatives in Latimer Road, working with the StQW Forum.  Westway Trust is also carrying out a major review of its property portfolio, which includes the land at 310 Latimer Road (site of the proposed subway) as well as those parts of its estate at the Westway Sports Centre.

Thoughts and ideas from building owners in Latimer Road would be welcome.   We will convene a meeting of residents and businesses in the street in the the next couple of months, to discuss emerging ideas from the Council and the Forum.   Let us know at info@stqw,org  if you have any immediate ideas, or would be interested in attending such a meeting.

 

 

 

Legal challenge to StQW Plan defeated in the High Court

A long-running legal challenge to the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan was dismissed by Mr Justice Dove, in the High Court on 12th January 2018.

Owners of a backland open space in the neighbourhood area had sought judicial review of the decision of Kensington and Chelsea Council to progress the draft neighbourhood plan to its referendum.   The referendum was held in February 2016, and the plan was supported by 92% of those voting, with a 23% turnout.  The Council has since been applying the policies in the plan.

The Legard family of North Yorkshire, as owners of one of three sites designated in the plan as Local Green Space, joined with developers Metropolis Property Ltd mounting the legal challenge.  A  planning application to build 21 townhouses on the land had been previously been deemed premature by the Council, pending publication of the neighbourhood plan.

The local authority defended its decisions, with the neighbourhood forum involved as an interested party.  After 5 days of hearings in the High Court, all three grounds of the claim were dismissed.

Previous posts give more background to this legal action.  Our view is that the landowners at Nursery Lane (the Legard family) could have avoided the whole scenario has they responded to the initial letters which we sent to them at the end of 2013, asking to discuss the future of this former nursery garden site.

Instead they chose to partner with Metropolis Property Ltd and to work up detailed proposals for a development of 20 townhouses, without so much as a single conversation with the StQW Forum.

Subsequent decisions by both parties to ignore the recommendation of the independent examiner of the StQW Draft Plan, and the referendum result on the plan, meant that substantial legal costs were incurred – on all sides.   The Council bore the brunt of costs of defending the action, and it is not yet clear whether more than a small element of their expenditure will be met by the claimants.

The Forum is very grateful to those members and local residents who contributed to fund which allowed us to retain Stephanie Hall from leading planning chambers Francis Taylor Buildings, to represent us at the High Court.   The case ran for five days rather than the expected two, and Stephanie kept her fees to the modest level which we could afford, working as a Direct Access Barrister.   This saves significant costs on use of a solicitor.

The Kensington Society also made two match funding contributions to our legal costs, at important moments.

The judgment is very detailed and cane be downloaded here https://t.co/5aAaft9oEQ.  We hope that it will give encouragement to other neighbourhood forums and parish councils preparing neighbouring plans, who find their proposals challenged by landowners or developers.

 

 

The legal case took an unusual turn, with the claimants arguing that the level and content of correspondence between the StQW forum, the council, and the independent examiner rendered the process ‘apparently biased’ and unfair.  The judgment analysed in detail the factual background to these allegations, and dismissed the three grounds of the claim.

The judge concluded that the forum had been ‘persistent’ on many issues, including some            disagreements with the Council’s planning officers.  We did indeed have to send many letters and emails to the Council, and previous posts on this website record why this became necessary.

As all those working on neighbourhood plans will know, it takes persistence to see these plans through to the finishing line.

TfL consultation on new Overground stations at Old Oak

Transport for London (TfL) are holding a public consultation on proposals for two new Overground stations at Old Oak.  The consultation is a short one, lasting from 16th October to 17th November 2017.

The details are at this link https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/london-overground/old-oak-common/?cid=old-oak-common

The locations of these proposed new stations were consulted on back in 2014, in the early days of plans for Old Oak.  The stations are intended to provide an interchange for passengers between the HS2/Queen Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) station at Old Oak Common and the London Overground network.

This interchange will be less than ideal, as neither Overground station will be adjacent to the main station (the Hythe Road station will involve a 700m walk between the two).  The business case for each station is still being developed and there is as yet no certainty on sources of funding.

The preferred option for a Hythe Road station involves a new station and railway viaduct to the north of the existing embankment. The existing embankment would be removed, opening up access between the north and southern parts of Cargiant’s 43 acres – destined to become ‘Old Oak Park’ with 6,500 new homes.

The StQW Forum will be submitting a response to the consultation.  We will be arguing that it makes more sense to create a new station at ‘Westway Circus’, the location beneath the Westway roundabout at the southern end of Latimer Road.  This proposals is advocated in the StQW Neighbourhood Plan, the RBKC Local Plan, and by the West London Line Group.

Such a station would serve the expanding Imperial College campus and the new developments under construction by St James and by Stanhope (on the BBC TV Centre site).  It would also improve public transport access for North Kensington and the StQW area, and relieve some of the traffic pressure on Wood Lane/Scrubs Lane.

A new station at Hythe Road could await the time when ‘Old Oak Park’ is built out on the Cargiant site.  Depending on the future of the London housing market post Brexit, there can be no certainty as to when Old Oak Park (and the residential towers granted approval along Scrubs Lane) will be both built and occupuied.  Until that time, an Overground station at Hythe Road would serve a limited catchment area.

The proposed Hythe Road station involves building a viaduct and new track across the Cargiant site.  Project costs are estimated at £198m at 2023 prices.  By contrast, a much simpler new station was added to the West London Line at Imperial Wharf a decade ago, at a cost of under £10m.   Hence the cost/benefits of a station at Westway Circus would seem far greater than at Hythe Road.

Ultimately, both could be provided and would be no closer together than halts on the East London Line, which has seen several new stations added at Shoreditch High Street, Hoxton, Haggerston and Dalston Junction.

If you wish to contribute views to the StQW consultation response, please email to info@stqw.org by November 10th 2017.

Cycle ‘Quietway’ proposals from RBKC

The Council has been consulting recently on the route of a proposed TfL/RBKC ‘Quietway’ route through the StQW neighbourhood.  ‘Quietway’s form part of the Mayor of London’s Cycling Grid.   The intended users are not cycling commuters but those who wish ‘to use clear, direct routes along quiet side streets’ .  They are different from the cycling superhighways, which are two-way largely segregated routes designed to bring people in and out of central London.

At the StQW/SHRA open meeting on June 9th, RBKC transport officers gave a presentation on the North Kensington section of a proposed new Quietway.  A map of the overall route is shown below.Quietway

Discussion at the meeting centred on the proposed junction where the Quietway crosses North Pole Road.  Local residents were very doubtful about the viability of the proposed junction layout, using two ‘Tiger’ crossings which are acknowledged as being experimental.

The major traffic problems in North Pole Road make it unsuitable as part of a Quietway route, in the view of local people.  There is congestion (and resultant poor driving practices) almost every day at mid and late afternoon.  Sightlines for cyclists are poor, because of parked vans and other vehicles.  Parking enforcement is weak.

The StQW Forum has written to the Council asking that two alternative routes are considered, one using Eynhaam Road and one using Highlever Road.  A copy of our letter can be found at this link StQW to RBKC re Cycle Quietway.V3 final [1225250]

The Council has assured us that these options will also be examined, before any decision is made.  The consultation on the RBKC website, with maps of each junction is at https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/parking-transport-and-streets/getting-around/cycling-and-walking/cycling-grid/mitre-lane-ledbury.   It closed on June 25th 2016.