The progress of a major regeneration project is seldom smooth, and often beset with challenges, so it’s no surprise that London’s largest such plan faces questions at a time of economic uncertainty.
Liz Peace chair of the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), speaking at the London Real Estate Forum, reminded the audience that the project offers an exciting opportunity to delivery a new urban centre and create 24000 homes and 50,000 jobs on land around what will be London’s biggest new station in 100 years.
However, she said, new OPDC Chief Executive David Lunts has said that Old Oak is “the most difficult major regeneration project”. So you would expect some issues.
Liz Peace said that the area was already “hyper connnected”, and with Crossrail arriving soon, two new overground stations in the programme, and HS2 still on the horizon, connectivity will only improve. But there was more potential. “We need to persuade Network Rail and TfL to redevelop Willesden Junction”, she said, and it’s true that would be welcomed by residents and businesses in the area.
She outlined three key challenges for the overall project – land ownership, surface road and bridge connections, and finance to unlock the regeneration sites.
The largest land challenge stems from the discussion between OPDC and Cargiant, who own a large site in central Old Oak. This is an issue that should resolve itself in time, as Peace and Lunts told the GLA budget and performance conmmitee earlier this month. Cargiant need somewhere to move to, and that is not yet resolved.
The other two challenges are linked, with plans for the “Northern Arc” road link dependent on receiving the £250m agreed in principle from the Housing Infrastructure Fund. This would unlock around 3000 to 4000 homes to be built on the sites alongside it. As an ask for the next Prime Minister, she said “I would be glad to hear the new PM reconfirm HS2”.
It’s not just about Old Oak of course, plans are afoot in Park Royal – already home to 43000 jobs – to improve broadband quality and power capacity, as well as security and oversight. Both will please current occupiers on the 650ha business park, Europe’s largest, and allow intensification by creating the capacity for more.