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OPDC waits on £250M housing infrastructure fund decision

Old Oak Common regeneration

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) is waiting to hear whether it will be successful in its bid to secure £250M of additional funding to accelerate infrastructure building on its site.

The corporation applied for pot of money from the government’s new £2.3bn Infrastructure Housing Fund (HIF) set up in July last year to accelerate housebuilding by providing the cash needed to build the associated infrastructure upfront.

Based on its understanding of the timescales set out by the government, OPDC chief executive Victoria Hills, speaking at a London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee meeting, said she expected a shortlist of projects to be announced by the end of the month. The final decision, based on more detailed business cases made for each site, would then be given by September.

The money has been earmarked for the northern part of the site which is a focal point of the OPDC masterplan and is seen as an area which has the best opportunity to push the development of new homes. Hills said brownfield sites in particular faced an age old challenge of “who was going to blink first”.

“We all know there is value and we’ll get some money out later on from a Section 106 to pay for an energy centre, bridge or road but we haven’t got the money up front, so how do we cash flow that?” she said. A Section 106 could oblige housing developers to contribute to the local infrastructure.

Hills said by using the fund to build essential pieces of infrastructure such as a bridge over the canal, an energy centre and roads in place first, it would act as a very “tasty carrot” to bring developers on board earlier than it would have been able to had it not had the additional money.

Hills also said having the upfront fund would allow it to build in a more sustainable way and it was learning lessons from the 2012 Olympic project.

“If it’s left piecemeal to developers, they will just do things they want to do in terms of how they want to deal with drainage, heating and waste because that suits their development,” she said. “The real size of the prize is doing things is a joined up way and we’re learning our lessons from the Olympics on that.”

Should the application be unsuccessful, Hills said although the northern area of the site would probably not be developed as quickly, it would still be on a good standing with around 5000 homes developed in five years and it would continue to apply for other funding streams.

“What would happen without the HIF you wouldn’t have the acceleration of the more tricky site,” she said. “But they would come eventually as I do believe the pull of the HS2 [High Speed 2] site is such a magnet. They take control of the site this year and the clock is starting to tick on it opening and although that is eight years away, we all saw from Crossrail how quickly that arrived.

“If it’s not HIF then it’ll be something else and who knows where we’ll be in six months time. But I can assure you whatever the opportunity is for funding we will go for it.”

If the additional fund does come through, Hills said the OPDC’s current budget did not cover the cost of the additional resources needed to work on an accelerated programme.

While she stressed there was no blank cheque for the additional money needed, Hills said the Greater London Authority (GLA) was open to having an ‘early and transparent’ conversation on how it might increase the OPDC’s budget to upscale the organisation.

 

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