Is West the new East?

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Old Oak Common © Car Giant

West London is giving the east a real run for its money with billions of pounds worth of projects, an Opportunity Area Framework and a Development Corporation to pull as many strings for Old Oak Common together as it can. And just as HS1 and Stratford station were the catalysts for the Olympics and the east’s rise, the west is hoping that HS2 and Old Oak Common station will repeat the trick on the other side of town.

Those were some of the key messages to emerge from a special NLA On Location event held at Imperial College’s Wood Lane studios yesterday, itself part of the emerging west London picture.

While the east had the Olympics, the west had Old Oak Common – Britain’s biggest single regeneration project – and Park Royal, not to mention the ‘treasured wilderness’ of Wormwood Scrubs, said William McKee, Planning Committee Chairman, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation. The aim now was to deliver a world class, sustainable neighbourhood with some 25,000 new homes and 65,000 new jobs, he said, connecting exiting neighbourhoods together and delivering new green social and physical infrastructure. This will require ‘enormous financial investment’ from planning gain or CIL, but already international interest has been shown in developing the area. ‘These projects have the potential to deliver £7bn every year to the UK economy and transform the lives of people who work and live here’, said McKee. ‘The future for west London is very bright indeed. West is indeed the new east.’

Victoria Hills, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation said the site literally has ‘the x factor’ with transport infrastructure lines crossing it, and it is currently the only place in the country where HS2 meets Crossrail. ‘We think this will be the most connected part of the rail network’, she said. ‘We’re delighted to be starting this 20-30 year project and the beauty of it is that we don’t have any set ways of doing anything or standard format.’

Alex Williams, Director of Borough Planning, Transport for London said that population increases – London is growing by some 6 new residents every hour – mean that London’s networks are likely to be used by 11.5bn trips per annum, up from 9.5bn now. This will affect the road system, where ‘the story is not as good as it could be’, and where the mayor is looking at ‘radical options’ such as tunnels as at Hammersmith’s ‘flyunder’ idea, where around 1000 homes could be built above ground.

The conference also heard from HS2 head of architecture Laura Kidd, who stressed the important ‘catalyst’ effect of all stations and the ‘contextual’ nature of designs for the station at Old Oak Common; Mike Cummings, Regional director of Park Royal for SEGRO, who said we must be mindful of the part industrial schemes play in London, and Sarah Ebanja, advisor to QPR, which still wants a stadium in the area despite the club’s relegation from the Premier League ‘in a central place people can walk to’. Professor David Gann, vice present (Development & Innovation) at Imperial College described the university’s plans for an innovation district at Imperial West to stay ahead of the world’s leading universities - ‘White City will be on people’s lips for 20 years’ – while Alistair Shaw, MD of Television Centre for Stanhope said the developer’s aim was to create a ‘decent place for people and the public’ with ‘great life and a buzz about it’ in a scheme which includes Soho House and 1 milllion square foot built out in phase one. AHMM director Paul Monaghan added that his practice’s scheme for TV Centre maintains the iconic view but will include penthouses on which AHMM is working on designs with five younger practices, while Capco director of planning and development for Earls Court Anette Simpson stressed the need to work in partnership with local authorities and the GLA. ‘Developers like CAPCO do need to be great stewards of great places’, she said.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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Is West the new East?

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Old Oak Common, the ‘Canary Wharf of the West’, will become one of the best-connected places in the UK when HS2 and Crossrail arrive in 2026, and is set to deliver 24,000 new homes and 55,000 jobs for London.

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