Chancellor George Osborne has given the Old Oak Common regneneration a major boost by agreeing to transfer swathes of government land to the development corporation.
Old Oak Common and Park Royal is a massive development opportunity, with the site spreading across 650ha and set to become a transport superhub connected to the Midlands, Leeds and Manchester through High Speed 2, to the east and west through Crossrail and to London through nearby Underground and Overgorund stations.
But the development must be funded privately, and the transfer of almost 100ha of government land - mostly railway land that will require over site development - to the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) will provide a major boost.
Speaking at a lecture at the ICE last night, ODPC chief executive Victoria Hills said that the corporation could now start to set up a masterplanning team to address how the land would be used.
“It’s all about the land,” she said. We’ve now got something to borrow against,” she explained.
“It’s a pretty big deal to get hold of 97ha of government land,” she added. “The good news is that we’ve got the in-principle rights to it.
“Now we’ve got the land, we can move from being a planning authority facilitator to a development ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) style authority,” she said, adding that this would involve erecting chinese walls within her organisation which will now be acting as both planning authority and developer.
”We’re now going to appoint a masterplanning team so we can apply to ourselves for an outline consent in around 2018 to 2019,” she said.
Maximising development of the industrial site will be complex. Hills said infrastructure investment in terms of highways and bridges will come to between £1.5bn and £2bn alone.
“It’s a difficult site. There are some of the most challenging engineering connundrums of any site. But the size of the prize makes it worth it,” she said.
Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (ODPC) chief executive Victoria Hills
Tackling the Crossrail depot that sits in the centre of the site is the main challenge, and one that is being addressed.
She also said that going forward, the value of the air rights above the HS2 station needed to be realised.
“The real prize is that air rights above the HS2 station,” said Hills. ”Those air rights come across to the development corporation. We’re talking about getting a long term investment partner in who can see that value further down the line.”