This article was published in the lookwest magazine distributed at MIPIM 2008, and is available for download here.
There’s more to Park Royal than Guinness and sheds, and the future of Europe’s largest industrial area looks even brighter – and greener – than ever. London’s manufacturing and distribution heartland lies halfway between Heathrow airport and the centre of London, and since the 1930’s the area has become an established hub particularly for the food and drink, film and TV and transport and logistics sectors as well as a wide range of manufacturing industries. The ‘land of sheds’ is not, however, content to dwell on past successes, and its vision for the future of Park Royal includes becoming Europe’s greenest industrial estate. A project to establish London’s first renewable fuels plant in west London will help to make this a reality.
The area is already home to nearly 2,000 businesses, employing 40,000 people, but
Park Royal Partnership (PRP), a public and private sector funded organisation tasked with looking after the area’s interests, is not complacent. Various strategies and plans are already in place to encourage further investment, regeneration and redevelopment, and in turn attract more companies to locate there, with the overall aim of creating even more jobs.
There are a number of areas on the Park Royal estate with excellent redevelopment potential for investors and developers. There are major opportunities on the estate for intensive employment led mixed-use development. The aspiration is to secure high quality development which enhances the attraction of Park Royal as a premier business location. The expectation is that developments will create high value employment opportunities, provide amenities and contribute to a step change in the quality of the public realm and transport services and infrastructure.
The ‘Southern Gateway’, (the area around North Acton station) is already home to world class companies and is the principal entry point into the Estate from the West End and the A40. The area has exciting development potential and in the future Crossrail will be only a short walk away. There are already emerging plans for ambitious high-density, employment led mixed-use development in this area.
Over at Willesden Junction, there is the potential to develop this transport hub which is a key point of entry for many of the employees working on the estate. The proposals are for a fully integrated interchange for rail, underground and bus, plus an enhanced pedestrian environment and exciting commercial opportunities.
Heart of Park Royal
The Heart of Park Royal includes the existing ASDA superstore and Central Middlesex Hospital and is the key interchange for public transport and freight vehicles in the centre of Park Royal. There is potential to develop the area with key sites located around the hospital and ASDA sites. The area is however congested and has a poor environment for workers and visitors. A long held wish of PRP and its partners has been to develop its potential to provide amenities for businesses on the estate. Development proposals are again expected to be employment led and to intensify land use through mixed schemes.
It will be crucial to use the development process to support measures addressing the deficiencies of the public realm and pedestrian and vehicle movement in the area.
Food innovation centre
There are some exciting ideas to help grow key business clusters such as the vibrant food and drink and film and TV sectors.
One such idea is for a Food Innovation Centre, which will create a product testing laboratory and business incubator facilities as well as a development kitchen for showcasing new food products. PRP are currently undertaking feasibility studies and an economic assessment to determine the viability of the project, which, if it goes ahead, will be an important factor in ensuring that the area retains and grows the largest cluster of food and drink companies in the capital. It is likely that PRP will pilot the project, and if successful, will be looking for a private sector developer or workplace operator to establish a permanent centre once the pilot finishes.
Park Royal’s industrial class assets are second to none, but inevitably in a manufacturing heartland that has enjoyed more than eighty years of continuous production, some of the sheds could benefit from redevelopment, and in turn will provide some strong opportunities for public and private sector collaboration.
The area around Standard, Gorst, Sunbeam and Minerva Roads in particular will provide strong redevelopment prospects for the enterprising.
Renewable fuels plant
Park Royal Partnership is leading a project to establish an “ArrowBio process” renewable fuels plant to service the waste management requirements of the businesses in west London. Not only will it provide a greener and more economical alternative to landfill – reducing such waste by 80% – it will also make money by transforming waste into green fuels.
The plant will have the capacity to process 100,000 tonnes of industrial waste per year, with the added benefit to businesses of simultaneously cutting the waste disposal costs from more traditional landfill processes by 25% for local companies, and potentially generating licence fees annually, which will be ploughed back into the regeneration and development of the estate.
Opportunity Area Planning Framework
Given the area’s economic importance to the capital as the largest industrial employment location, the Mayor of London has identified Park Royal as an Opportunity Area as part of the London Plan. This indicates that there will be significant changes in the future, as the plan not only charges the area to retain the present employment levels, it forsees that they will increase by some 11,000 by 2026, through inward investment and business growth.
As the estate lies on three different London Boroughs, the Planning Framework will assist us to deliver projects cross borough, provide clarity to developers and investors and guide planning decisions and policy. The Opportunity Area Planning Framework is designed to protect the strategic employment land within the estate. It will also aim to improve the transport infrastructure and public realm, promote sustainable development, deliver some housing where that enables
other benefits, improve access to the estate through the four gateways, create a Heart for Park Royal that is accessible and, finally, encourage the boroughs to pool statutory developer contributions to fund major transport and public realm projects. This is the clearest vision that Park Royal Partnership has for the future. It’s ambitious, certainly, but also in keeping, for ambition has already grown the area into Europe’s largest industrial estate.