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Old Oak Common row puts development in jeopardy

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The regeneration of Old Oak Common in west London is in jeopardy after a row erupted between the local development corporation and the largest landowner on the 140ha site.

Second-hand car dealer Cargiant has called for a complete halt to spending on the west London project to develop 24,000 new homes, many of which are planned to be on Cargiant’s 18ha plot.

Cargiant managing director Tony Mendes claims that the scheme is “unviable, unaffordable and undeliverable”.

The car dealer is calling for a full inquiry into the spending and strategy of the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) which was set up by the London Mayor’s office to regenerate the area. So far OPDC has spent £30M on the scheme, including almost £4M in payments to 31 different consultants.

The Mayor’s Office has dismissed Cargiant’s claims as “barely worth the paper that they are written on”.

In September last year, OPDC applied for £250M of government funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to build the first 10,000 new homes on the site. The government has yet to rule on the application.

As part of the plan OPDC would have to pay £600M to relocate Cargiant, something Mendes claims is unaffordable.

“This is an absolute scandal and Old Oak Common is fast becoming known as Old Oak Cock-Up,” Mendes said. “The area was supposed to help meet the housing crisis in London with 25,500 new homes but it is going to fail to deliver all but a fraction of that number and at an outrageously high cost to the public purse.

“In just four years the OPDC has already spent £30M of public money and we are gravely concerned that they are now seeking £250M more, even though the comprehensive development of the area is currently unviable, unaffordable and undeliverable.”

He added: “We are today calling for an immediate pause on further spending and consultant appointments, for the OPDC to make public their bid for £250M of government money so this can be properly scrutinised by the London Assembly and MPs, and for a full inquiry into this matter with two objectives.”

Cargiant does not have the power to block the project, as OPDC could apply for a compulsory purchase order as the project is deemed to be in the public interest.

OPDC chair Liz Peace labelled Cargaint’s decision to go public with its concerns as “disappointing”.

“Development on complex brownfield land is a challenge,” Peace said. “We are working hard with local landowners to minimise impacts on local businesses where possible.

“We have been having these delivery-focused discussions for many months, including with Cargiant, and so their current public approach is disappointing. We will continue and we believe solutions will be found.”

It comes after HS2 Ltd announced a joint venture between Balfour Beatty, Vinci and Systra as construction partner on the £1bn Old Oak Common station at the West London site.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London addded: ”These comments are barely worth the paper that they are written on.

“The Mayor would be letting down Londoners if he allowed private sector vested interests to get in the way of the homes and jobs that Londoners need,” the spokesperson added. “The mayor is extremely disappointed that Tony Mendes is looking to frustrate a project that will deliver tens of thousands of much-needed new homes and jobs.”

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