'Halt Old Oak development before more cash is wasted' urges Cargiant
PUBLISHED: 12:10 13 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 13 February 2019
A used-car enterprise in Willesden Junction has declared war on the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) over a multi-billion pound regeneration project.
Cargiant is calling for an independent review of OPDC plans. It comes after the vehicle seller accused the OPDC of wasting money in the wake of its decision to abandon support for Cargiant’s development plan for the site – which would have paid for it to move – and instead bring forward its own.
The OPDC, originally set up by former mayor Boris Johnson, is the regeneration agency for a 650-hectare site that also contains a Crossrail depot and maintenance facility.
South of the Grand Union Canal is 100 acres of railway lines, sidings and depots. To the north is Cargiant, built up over 40 years and employing 700 people on its own 46 acres.
Tony Mendes, managing director, said: “Over the last four years we worked tirelessly to find a solution for the relocation of Cargiant – that’s what we’re about.”
And he claimed: “From the outset the GLA set out their vision of the area actually without understanding the difficulties of developing these island sites. They didn’t really understand it, nor did they have any knowledge of the business. It was very speculative to say the least.”
OPDC started discussions with the retailer in 2014, inviting it to bring forward a development plan.
“We took that challenge because we wanted to secure the future of Cargiant and the relocation from this site,” said Mr Mendes. “We spent £8.5million of our own money seeking to make this work and as a result gained a thorough and detailed understanding of the technical challenges and solutions needed.
“We worked for four years to try and bring forward a development only to be told that our master plan was undeliverable and unviable.
“They said it wouldn’t pay for infrastructure and they wanted to bring forward their own plan.”
The OPDC has put in a bid for £250m of government funds and started a compulsory purchase order (CPO) process that Mr Mendes said encroaches on Cargiant land. The OPDC says none of the land it wants to buy is Cargiant’s.
Mr Mendes said that to move or “extinguish” Cargiant will cost £600m, adding that building bridges, roads, plumbing and other infrastructure north of the canal will cost £532m.
In 2016 architect Sir Terry Farrell branded the development the “worst cock-up in 50 years” after the Crossrail depot was built in the south, resulting in 6,000 homes being cut from the initial vision of 25,000 across the whole site.
Mr Mendes said: “Old Oak Common is fast becoming known as Old Oak Cock-Up.” He claims the OPDC has already “wasted” £30m since the scheme started with “nothing to show for it”.
“Last year they paid £4m for 31 consultants and are tendering for more,” he told the Times. “The OPDC must be the most advised agent in the world. That’s a lot of money.”
He added: “Our battle for our existence will definitely go on if they get awarded the £250m.
“Our position here now is to call for a halt on further public money being wasted so that under an independent review the OPDC’s bid for £250m gets assessed and tested whether it’s value for money – and it’s taxpayers’ money.” And he claimed: “They won’t be able to deliver on the promises they made to their head board in trying to acquire that £250m.”
OPDC chair Liz Peace CBE said: “A review of the plans found the Cargiant scheme to be unviable.
“The scheme required the public sector to make a significant injection of funds to pay for necessary infrastructure, involved densities which would have been challenging and would almost certainly have been unable to deliver on the affordable homes required by mayoral policy.
“At OPDC we have developed an alternative approach which allows for the development, overseen by OPDC, of the section of the site to the north of Cargiant’s main landholding. This approach will enable the delivery of up to 10,000 homes and 5,500 jobs for Londoners by the early 2030s.
“To achieve this, OPDC submitted a Housing Infrastructure Funding bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last year for the £250m of public funding that is needed to deliver essential infrastructure, including a road and energy centre, that would open this land up for development.”
She added: “OPDC is not setting out to CPO Cargiant. OPDC has, and will continue to, work with Cargiant on the optimum way to bring forward development.”