London Assembly hears of opportunities and challenges at Old Oak and Olympic Park

London Assembly hears of opportunities and challenges at Old Oak and Olympic Park

Regenerating Old Oak Common and Park Royal in west London is “too good an opportunity to miss” for one of its major landowners, the government, the London Assembly has heard. But “levelling up” and funding becoming directed outside London mean the capital has a fight on its hands to get what has been described as the UK’s largest regeneration project off the ground, the area’s mayoral development corporation chief David Lunts told Assembly Members (AMs) last week.

The warning came as the Assembly’s budget and performance committee began its scrutiny of 2022/23 spending plans for the capital’s two mayoral development corporations, Old Oak and Park Royal (OPDC) and London Legacy (LLDC), which is responsible for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and its environs.

Some 70 per cent of Old Oak’s core development land is effectively in government ownership, with sites owned by HS2, where the new Old Oak Common station and Crossrail interchange is under construction, by Network Rail and by the Department for Transport. Plans set out by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor to piggy-back on the new station with up to 25,000 new homes and 55,000 jobs represented the “biggest inward investment or housing opportunity in London that isn’t already under development,” Lunts said.

But after being forced to rethink the scheme and return £250 million in government Housing Infrastructure Fund cash after its original plans were thrown out by a planning inspector in 2019, the corporation faces uncertainty both on land transfer arrangements and funding, he added. A fresh bid for government funding for site costs and essential infrastructure will be on Whitehall desks before Christmas, Lunts said. “We know Old Oak Common is seen in government as a priority project, but if we are ultimately going to deliver we are going to need additional resources.”

There are contrasting challenges for the LLDC, which is in charge of what the committee heard from its chief executive Lyn Garner is widely seen as the “most impressive Olympic legacy project in modern times”.

Despite costs for the East Bank arts, education and cultural project soaring from original estimates of £471 million to £628 million, the project is now on time and on budget, with no requirement for extra cash, Garner reported. East Bank will comprise new bases for the BBC, Sadler’s Wells theatre, the Victoria and Albert museum, University College London and the London College of Fashion and has been forecast to bring 2,500 jobs and 1.5 million visitors to the site, producing £1.5 billion for the local economy.

Generating commercial income to support the Park remains a challenge, with the controversial concession agreement made March 2013 under Boris Johnson’s administration governing West Ham United’s use of the London Stadium currently costing the LLDC some £17 million a year, the committee heard. “If contractual arrangements don’t change there is an inherent deficit,” said LLDC finance chief Gerry Murphy. A potentially lucrative naming rights deal for the stadium has remained elusive too, she said.

The LLDC has ground to make up on affordable housing numbers, AMs heard, and is pushing to meet City Hall’s 35 per cent affordable targets, which would represent a rise on the 23 per cent affordable totals achieved on homes approved under Johnson.

Cash is also needed to further develop Stratford station, which was London’s busiest during the pandemic lockdowns and is already accommodating many of the 60 million visitors a year attracted to the Westfield shopping centre, Garner said. The LLDC is working with Network Rail and Transport for London on a funding bid, she added.

Watch the budget and performance committee meeting in full here. Photo from GLA.

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