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Old Oak Common forced to suspend CEO search

Old oak common

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) is suspending its search for a new chief executive.

Speaking at a London Assembly meeting in London, OPDC chair Liz Peace said the process was being pushed back to the end of the year pending government decisions on funding.

In particular, Peace said this was due to the uncertainty about whether the corporation will get £250M from the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

“We went out to the market for a new CEO and we actually felt that because of all the doubt about the shape of the programme over the next 12 months, in light of whether or not we get the housing infrastructure fund bid, that possibly we aren’t in the best position to access potentials in the market right now,” she said.

“Victoria Hills left in April and we put in an interim arrangement and asked Mick Mulhern to step in,” she said. “And I would have to say, sparing Mick’s blushes, that is working exceedingly well and I don’t believe we are suffering in any way for having an interim appointment.”

An application for the HIF cash will be submitted in September. The government fund is intended to allow developments to build the infrastructure necessary to unlock housing schemes.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has made awarding cash from the fund condtional on schemes accounting for how they will use the money by March 2021. Peace said this would be challenging for the ODPC and that the ministry had “intimated” it would have an additional two years to account for the spending.

Peace said if it its application was unsuccessful, the ODPC would look to get funding from other public sources and from the private sector. She expressed concern about the corporation’s ability to get the full amount from the private sector.

“We are of course thinking about that [if the HIF money does not come through],” she said. “There are a number of other public sector pots which we could tap into. If we have to use full private sector funds, then my feeling is that we’ll lose some control.

“We’ll always have planning control but it’s always nice to have financial control as well.”

Peace also reiterated her intentions for a long-term plan to develop and expand Willesden Junction station.

“If we could improve Willesden Junction, that could be an equally significant transport hub [linked to the High Speed 2 hub on the southern part of the site],” she said. “The connectivity around there is tremendous.

“I think there is a phenomenal opportunity to find a long-term investor and some patient capital to see how you could make a real commercial hub and improved station at Willesden Junction.”

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