London’s newest neighbourhood, where 1,600 acres will be transformed, is a regeneration hotspot equalled only by the Royal Docks and Beckton Riverside in the east of the capital.
The regeneration of Old Oak Common and Park Royal to the north-west of the capital will be a major new place for Londoners to live and work, with 25,500 new homes and 65,000 new jobs over four decades.
Transport is the key
Like the late 1800s, which saw London’s main railway termini developed in a ring around the capital’s centre, Old Oak in the 21st century will renew connections with the Midlands and the North, but from a station located further out that will drive new development in north-west London and suggests a larger dimension for the city — as Victorian stations did, and as Heathrow did in the post-war era.
The development potential of giant industrial sheds, swarms of low-rise industrial buildings, rail marshalling yards, a tangle of Tube, local and national rail lines, threaded through by the Grand Union Canal, a remnant of a previous era of growth, will all be unlocked by the arrival of Crossrail — the Elizabeth line — and High Speed Two (HS2).
An estimated £26 billion-worth of development is focused around a new interchange, larger than Waterloo, where the Elizabeth line and HS2 will meet in 2026.
Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation — the OPDC — the mayoral body in charge of the area, claims the level of development will contribute “£7.6 billion annually to the UK economy”. New chairman of the OPDC, Liz Peace, says: “Londoners should be thinking creatively about what Old Oak and Park Royal have to offer. The opportunities will be amazing when you think about the advantages and connections the new transport infrastructure will bring to the area.
It is an enormous project, but I’m going to be focusing on some of the smaller things so we make early progress and a difference in the next two or three years to bring new homes and jobs. That’s the way we will make a difference, which London Mayor Sadiq Khan is very interested in.”
First new homes
The first new housing projects will be around the HS2/Crossrail terminal to the eastern end of the area and immediately north of Wormwood Scrubs.
The Mayor stamped his involvement on future development by persuading Queens Park Rangers Football Club and Genesis Housing Association to increase the number of affordable homes in their Oaklands scheme on the Grand Union Canal.
The Greater London Authority increased its grant to the 605-home development so that 40 per cent of the homes, up to 242 from 200, will be “affordable”. Oaklands, the first major scheme off the blocks in Old Oak, will include a mix of social and affordable rent and shared-ownership homes.
Residents will move in from 2019. Office and commercial space is included for small and local businesses.
The football club is still looking for a new ground so it can relocate from Loftus Road, but seems to have dropped plans to acquire land from local business and major landowner Car Giant, which plans a major mixed-use redevelopment scheme on its own 46 acres in the north-east corner of the OPDC area.
Old Oak Park, a joint proposal between Car Giant and developer London & Regional, envisages 6,500 new homes and commercial space for 8,000 jobs. An outline planning application will be made once a proposal to build a new viaduct over the rail tracks to the north of the site, creating a link to Willesden Junction station, has been agreed.
Huge new rail hub
The core of Old Oak, the new HS2, Crossrail and Great Western Main Line interchange station is due to open in 2026, by which time it is expected some 12,500 homes will either have been built or will be under way. About 60,000 people will be living across the area by 2047. The current population is only 4,000.
Two new Overground stations are also proposed: Hythe Road will open in the early 2020s and Old Oak Lane will open in 2026.
Huge mixed-use development is expected around the new interchange. A new town centre, in effect, will be developed off the back of £2.5 billion of infrastructure, of which a proportion will be funded by taxes on development in the form of the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 contributions paid by developers.
But this isn’t putting them off. Aurora was one of the first developers to pursue a scheme in Scrubs Lane, which runs north-south along the eastern boundary of Old Oak.
It received planning permission for 47 new homes on a former light industrial site, including 14 for shared ownership and one to let at a London Living Rent. Work starts next year.
Aurora also has proposals for a 22-storey tower further south in Scrubs Lane with 164 new homes alongside two lower-rise blocks.
City & Docklands, meanwhile, has applied to build 200 homes for rent and other uses. The developer says North Kensington Gate will form a “new gateway” to Old Oak and Park Royal at Mitre Yard, also in Scrubs Lane. Cafés and restaurants will line a currently inaccessible stretch of the Grand Union Canal.
Make Architects says its concept for the one-and-a-half-acre site is an “exceptional new place for residents, employees and visitors”, which achieves the “highest standards of design” in buildings of up to 19 storeys.
The Hammersmith Society does not share that opinion, however, claiming the tower is “unremarkable” and will loom over views from Wormwood Scrubs.
The society should probably expect more tall buildings as HS2 approaches — and Londoners should certainly keep an eye on the capital’s newest neighbourhood.