The recent Place West London conference on 25 June was focussed on the regeneration of west London, and heard about Old Oak Common, The Hammersmith Flyunder, Earls Court, White City, and more.
The first major session focussed on Old Oak Common and discussed realising the vision for the development around the proposed HS2/Crossrail interchange.
This is a major site of former and unused railway sidings and some still operational facilities. The major transport interchange would act as a hub and driver for growth and new development in this currently deprived area of west London. Martin Scholar of the Greater London Authority told delegates that the site is now being designated as a New Opportunity Area in the Greater London Plan. It will accommodate an estimated 24,000 new residential units, 55,000 jobs, space for commercial, education, retail and open space and leisure uses; in other words the creation of a new town at the confluence of Hammersmith, Brent and north Kensington with a modern major rail interchange at its heart, directly linking the area to the Western Corridor down to Bath and Bristol, to Birmingham, to south and south east London and to east London and Essex.
This is a rail equivalent of a major international hub airport; creating a new “Capital” for west London for which an indicative masterplan is currently being prepared to guide the development of the area which will have the benefit of a Mayoral Development Corporation to determine major planning applications in the designated area.
Old Oak Common has the potential to be as important to London and the south East as the development of Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands in the 1980’s.
At Earls Court, Capco are in partnership with Transport for London creating a major mixed use development of 77 acres on the site of the former Earl’s Court exhibition halls and TfL’s adjacent London Underground land holdings. Anette Simpson of Capco updated delegates on progress on the delivery of the “four villages and a high street” Farrells masterplan, which would produce 10.7 million sq. ft.of development comprising 8,000 residential units, 1 million sq. ft. of offices and 0.9 million sq. ft of retail, leisure, cultural and community uses and an hotel.
Work is underway on the first of the villages – the Earls Court Village – which aims to enhance the offer of the area and make it a destination offering facilities to the population of the wider west London corridor.
The Hammersmith Flyunder
Patricia Bench, the Chief Executive of the HammersmithLondon BID talked about the proposal for a “Flyunder” for Hammersmith Town centre – a tunnel to replace the current flyover which effectively dismembers the town centre and cuts it in two.
There is real momentum behind this project now, with Boris Johnson describing it as visionary. If realised it could reduce air pollution, seriously rejuvenate the economy of the immediate area reconnect the town to the Thames riverside, in the process producing land ready for development which could provide office space or thousands of new homes.
Slough and the Thames Valley
Delegates heard from Tim Smith, Business Director of the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and Ruth Bagley, Chief Executive of Slough Borough Council.
Tim shared with the delegates the significant degree to which Berkshire contributes value added to the corridor, the scale of innovative and leading edge businesses that have been attracted to the area, in part due to Heathrow, and its being able to draw on a reservoir of very talented people and institutions like Brunel University, Reading University and Royal Holloway college.
“The War for Talent” (as it has been described) is becoming central to destination and investment strategies as cities and development corridors recognise that this is the new battleground for city region development.
Ruth focussed on the extent to which Slough was working in innovative partnerships with private developers to secure an improvement in, and an increase of, high quality development in its town centre and areas adjacent to it, creating space for the expansion of existing businesses and the location of inward investing ones, as well as new housing, leisure and entertainment facilities, all of which will be made easier to achieve by the designation of the area as a “Simplified Planning Zone”, the creation of a Local Asset Backed (development) Vehicle (LABV) and a Slough Regeneration Partnership.
Ruth described Slough as “a little piece of West London outside the M25”, and perhaps we should view it in the same way. Certainly stronger links between the two sides of the orbital motorway would provide more economic mass, and better opportunities for growth.
Certainly now the time is now ripe for the stakeholders in West London to give serious consideration to working even more closely together to develop a regeneration and economic development strategy for the corridor. This is not a time to focus inside the red lines of the local authority map, but to collaborate working to stay ahead of the challenger regions where development is suddenly viable again.