Stalemate over Old Oak and Park Royal development

PUBLISHED: 08:18 20 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:11 22 July 2019

Have you say on the plans for Old Oak Common plans in Harlesden

Have you say on the plans for Old Oak Common plans in Harlesden

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The planning authority leading redevelopment of Old Oak and Park Royal and chief objector Cargiant have been told to end their “dispute” as a meeting came to an “inconclusive” end.

Paul Clark, planning inspector. Picture: Nathalie RaffrayPaul Clark, planning inspector. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) and used car business came head to head at the final stage examination by a government planning inspector at the Old Oak Collective in Old Oak Lane on Thursday.

At stake is one of the biggest regeneration projects in the UK which, if deemed viable, promises to unlock up to 25,500 new homes and 65,000 jobs over 30 years in the area.

The meeting ended with a big "if" as planning inspector Paul Clark said: "I'm sorry it has been inconclusive but it doesn't mean it's not been helpful."

The independent examination by Mr Clark was marked as the final stage in the OPDC's Local Plan process before it can be adopted as part of a legally binding development project for the area.

Artist sketch of the proposed development (Pic: Old Oak Park)Artist sketch of the proposed development (Pic: Old Oak Park)

Key aspects are the government's £250m Housing Infrastructure Fund which the corporation received "in principle" to "unlock" Old Oak North, the first of six new neighbourhoods planned for the 650-hectare site. It is situated close to a major transport hub where High Speed 2 meets Crossrail, creating super-fast links in and out of the area.The other is the potential purchase of 25 per cent of Cargiant's land, which the business has vowed to fight after OPDC chiefs Liz Peace OBE and David Lunts told a London Assembly meeting on July 4 that the OPDC would look to buy.

Kicking off the "resumed" proceedings Mr Clark said: "Cargiant is a significant site. The advice is when the site is so significant to a local plan that it may be appropriate to check that it's deliverable and it is developable beyond five years by means of checking the site's specific viability."

Simon Ricketts, a lawyer acting on behalf of Cargiant, started the meeting asking for a three month "suspension".

He said he "didn't want to stand in the way of progress" before adding: "One important condition my client formally offers to the OPDC is that Cargiant/Old Oak Park Ltd and OPDC agree jointly to appoint, at shared cost, a mediator as soon as it's practical with the shared objective of arriving an agreement within three months, on four things."

Artist sketch of the proposed central square (Pic: Old Oak Park)Artist sketch of the proposed central square (Pic: Old Oak Park)

These included the exact amount of land to be acquired from Cargiant for phase 1A, the commercial terms of that purchase, appropriate mitigation methods so that work "doesn't prejudice Cargiant's operations, and the "soundness" of any final agreements.

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Following a short break Chris Katkowski QC, acting on behalf of the OPDC said they "would not contemplate a suspension" if it involved "shuttling back and forth" between a mediator. "We don't see why there's any good reason that we are not grown up and adult enough to engage with one another," he added.

As reported by the Brent & Kilburn Times in June, the plan to build an Old Oak and Park Royal community is beset by complexities, risks and uncertainty and this has not changed.

Old Oak Common 'Before' photos, taken on 21.07.16. Picture:Tom SimpsonOld Oak Common 'Before' photos, taken on 21.07.16. Picture:Tom Simpson

The OPDC were unable to give any idea of infrastructure costs, in what is believed to be a multi-billion project. Cargiant has also argued it will cost in excess of £650m to move or extinguish their business. However, these figures were questioned and "postponed" to a future hearing.

Also there are very real fears that in order to meet viability costs there may not be any affordable housing, a key requirement in the Mayor's London Plan.

Also under discussion was whether a new station is needed in Hythe Road. If constructed it would run between North Acton and Willesden Junction, within the London Overground commuter rail system.

Transport for London have not yet factored any funding for it, the meeting heard, but the OPDC said it was "not important" because Crossrail would serve the area.

However, the West London Alliance, said having a station there was a "no brainer" in connecting all communities.

Mr Clark asked that a map be drawn up without Hythe Road Station forecast within it so he could compare the outcomes and to a decision.

Jenny Robinson, from the Grand Union Alliance, said the group were "very concerned" over questions of the viability.

"We see a real diminishment of community benefit and we are very worried about that."

The meeting will reconvene at a later date.

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