HS2 and Car Giant threaten Old Oak Development

New Civil Engineer

Old Oak and Park Royal Corporation (OPDC) bosses have admitted that the precarious position of High Speed 2 and challenges to the local plan by Cargiant could threaten development plans.

In a London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee meeting, OPDC chair Liz Peace said the development of the 140ha site in west London around the new HS2 station was “somewhat undermined” by the current political uncertainty around HS2.

HS2 is currently facing uncertainty with many Conservative party frontrunners threatening to scrap or review the project should they win.

Initially, Peace said a £250M Housing and Infrastructure Fund (HIF) grant, which was awarded to the project in March, would need to be underwritten by the GLA before it could be released. However, she said the mayor was “understandingly cautious” over the political uncertainty over which the OPDC had no control.

Interim OPDC chief executive David Lunts also warned that with the notice to proceed for HS2 having been put back until December any further delays resulting in a later opening date of the station would have a knock on effect on the Old Oak development.

“At the moment the notice to proceed [is a sticking point], until that’s triggered the main works can’t be let or activated and that’s been postposed to December,” he said. “That does start to raise concerns, certainly if there is an extension beyond that as to at some point questioning whether the station can open within the timeframe that we already know, because never mind the value engineering or cancellation, our plans are very contingent on the idea of a station opening in 2026.

“If that were to move, that would inevitably impact on our programme because we need the station to open to generate the accessibility and he value in the land.”

In the committee hearing, Peace also admitted that there were now additional implications from an ongoing row between the corporation and major land owner on the site, which could jeopardise the HIF funding.

Although the HIF money has been awarded, Peace said it came with a number of “challenging” conditions before it is released. One of these conditions she said, was to have an accepted local plan which is not yet the case for the Old Oak and Park Royal area.

In February it emerged that the area’s local plan was being challenged by Cargiant, on the grounds of viability and in May the planning officer branded the issue “potentially show-stopping” and set an additional hearing to investigate the matter.

Should the local plan not be accepted, the funding for the infrastructure needed to allow land to be released to developers, may not be made available by the government.

An additional hearing is due to take place in mid-July with a decision expected on the local plan by the end of the year.

As a resolution Peace said compulsory purchase could be an option, but admitted that the organisation did not have the money to buy the site which is why she said it wanted to “work around” it and it was a long term plan.

“All we can do is play a waiting game and see what we can achieve around car giant,” said Peace.

“I think we should take a robust view at the examination in public and say we are in it for the long haul. Our local plan is aspirational, the fact that we can’t immediately dot all the I’s and cross the T’s is not a reason to not accept it, but that will be up to the inspector, they may take different view so that is definitely a challenge.”

The OPDC has until 2024 to draw down on the fund, however Peace said she believed this was negotiable for such an important site.

Lunts added that it was important that the Cargiant land was redeveloped as having so much of the land around a new high-speed station dedicated to buying and selling cars, didn’t “seem like a sensible fit”.

Peace estimated that the cost of developing the infrastructure alone needed to release the land for sale was around £1bn.