Housing and infrastructure – massive for West London

This session at the Capital West London Build & Recover Summit could have been summed up by Cath Shaw, from Barnet Council, who said in her opening: “Delivery of housing and infrastructure is of absolutely massive importance”.

She ran through the borough’s key projects. Work is progressing at Brent Cross South towards the first deliverable – a park, together with playing fields very important for wellbeing in these work-from-home times.

The Thameslink station is on site, and the land for phase 1 is largely assembled. “The new town centre will be a 15 minute neighbourhood,” she said. “It’ll have health and wellbeing at its heart – making us more resilient to COVID. Access to great space is incredibly important.”

In wider west London, she picked out Old Oak Common, Wembley, and more as opportunities, but singled out the West London Orbital (WLO) – the proposed overground line from Hendon the Hounslow via Old Oak – as the main one for the sub-region.

“It connects opportunity areas and helps get workers to new jobs in growth areas. In rail terms it is quick and cheap to deliver, could unlock 10000 additional new homes, and be open by 2028. It could be exactly the kind of thing goverment would want to support post-COVID.”

David Lunts of OPDC talked about the importance of working with local businesses to support them and help them flourish.

As for housing and infrastructure, “The land around the HS2 interchange is important. There are now cranes all over the place. The Old Oak station is one of the biggest construction projects in the country.

Indeed, with Old Oak being the HS2 terminus for a number of years, the opportunity was even greater. “This station will drive fundamental changes to surrounding area. It gives potential for a tremendous amount of new housing – 25000 or more. But it’s also about working with businesses to create a new district with new jobs.

There is another Old Oak opportunity – the chance to address directly the question what does post-COVID London look like? “How do we deliver safe, secure, and enjoyable, with a high standard of amenity?”

Alice Lester described Brent’s priorities, which translate as “housing, enabled by infrastructure”.

Their focus on the Neasden Stations area, where the potential interchange between WLO and Jubilee line provides growth opportunity. “WLO will open up orbital access, and will be transformational.”

Loren Thanyakittikul of Assael said that available land and enhanced infrastructure are the keys to delivery. They are working on Connected Living London (the TfL/Grainger venture) portfolio of sites on underused Tfl land. These are by their nature well-served by existing infrastructure, but on constrained sites, where good design is vital.

In terms of speed, these will be build to rent – which will be delivered faster than traditional market sale driven projects. This means affordable housing is on the fast track.

“Build to rent has a crucial role to play. It raises the game, improves quality, and brings in new capital. We can build more housing, quicker.”

David Lunts summed up the opportunity. “Fortune favours the bold. This is all about confidence and leadership. We have the raw materials in west London that nowhere else has, and probably the best city brand in the world.”

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