MDC to get things going

Delegates at Place West London heard that the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, which came into being on April 1 2015, is busily “getting things going” around the mega-project.

Victoria Hills, Director of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) laid out her an the Mayor of London’s vision for the 650 ha area. which has, as she put it, the X-Factor.

This is the X made by the intersection of HS2 and Crossrail, what will be one of the UKs busiest stations from the moment it opens, handling as many passengers as Waterloo.

This puts what is at present Europe’s most successful industrial park – in terms of occupancy and rent levels – on top of a location with the potential to host an extra 55,000 jobs, and 24,000 homes.

Hills pointed to a variety of assets – the 1.5km of prime canal waterfront, and Europe’s largest car dealership were two key examples – and said that HS2’s decision not to build a spur to Heathrow Airport was good news for Old Oak, as passengers would change there on to Crossrail.

Key to the success of the ambitious plans are pulling together landowners, creating excellent access routes not just to the north of the proposed interchange station, but also to the south and Wormwood Scrubs. This would allow many more existing local residents to use the station, spreading its benefit still further.

Utilities were also seriously important, work was already under way to fast track improvements. This will be welcome to existing tenants on Park Royal who’s worries include shortages in power and water, and slow broadband. If Hills could address those she would make many friends in the business community.

She reiterated her desire to talk to the existing business community, saying she is delighted that the chair of the Park Royal Business Group is a board member of OPDC.

What’s next? Hills will be working on the land strategy – made complicated by the multiple owners, working with partners including the local community, councils, and businesses, but chiefly “getting things going” on what she described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity for west London”.

Andrew Clarke, of Peter Brett Associates, engaged by OPDC to complete a study of transport issues and opportunities, and how improvements might be funded, what he described as a “reality check”, said that they estimated the key local transport improvements would cost around £1.5bn, and explained there was around £727m in funding available. He then, thankfully, showed how that funding gap could be cut to just £6.3m a year over the full OPDC programme horizon, and suggested Government should be able to find this.

Mike Cummings of SEGRO – one of the largest Park Royal landowoners – made some points that the Park Royal business community will have been pleased to hear. He reminded the Mayor and Government of Park Royal’s economic importance,  of the key role that industrial use plays in sustaining that, and of the need to protect and enhance the park.

Assets in Park Royal make of 8.8% of SEGRO’s total asset base with 1250 customers using SEGRO property in the area. Building on this would help the whole city, said Cummings. “Industral development is critical to London’s infrastructure, Park Royal is critical to the delivery of good and services across London – such as food to the West End”.

“Old Oak must enhance Park Royal,” he continued. Issues in power supply, and congestion needed to be tackled, and the tension between the Mayor’s vision for intensification of use, and the customer need for “higher eaves, and bigger yards” needed to be eased.

“Park Royal can be seen as the fabric of everyday life,” said Cummings. “But we need to be mindful of how industrial can grow alongside London’s growing population”.

Then Sarah Ebanja, from the team mobilised by Queens Park Rangers to work for New Queens Park, spoke about her desire to see a new QPR stadium as “the beating heart” of the new neighbourhood at Old Oak.

She pointed out that the OAPF recognises that a stadium could be a catalyst for regeneration and development, and suggested that the regenerative power of football stadia seen in Islington (the Emirates Stadium) and, soon, in Hounslow with Brentford’s new home, could benefit the project at Old Oak.

The audience raised several thoughtful questions. To the fore were concerns over how additional road traffic servicing the new developments would combine with the already heavy load on, for example, the A40 and A406.

There is £250m of planned road improvements already in the programme which will help, and Victoria Hills said that other “more radical” ideas would be considered, including tunnelling roads through the area.

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