The future of London’s largest used motor vehicle dealership has been secured thanks to Sadiq Khan’s mayoral development corporation abandoning plans to replace it with a new residential development close to the planned HS2 station and rail hub in the north west of the capital.
In a press release issued on the morning after general election day, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) said it is no longer seeking to acquire the 54 acres of land occupied by the Cargiant, the secondhand car refurbishment and sales company, a move which had previously been integral to its plans for new housing in the area.
The OPDC’s decision is a clear victory for Cargiant, which has been publicly insisting that the corporation’s financial calculations were profoundly flawed, with the cost of either relocating Cargiant’s workshops or compensating the business were it forced to close rendering the proposed new neighbourhood unviable.
The company received a big boost in September, when the planning inspector appointed by the government largely agreed with Cargiant’s assessment of the OPDC’s Local Plan, saying it would cost £480 million to move the business elsewhere and around £630 million were it “extinguished” as a result of the OPDC taking its land using its compulsory purchase powers.
These sums would have to be found from income from the proposed new housing and commercial property in addition to the costs of building new roads bridges and community facilities to meet residents’ needs and providing the proportion of “affordable” homes required by the Mayor.
As well as abandoning its plan to take ownership of Cargiant’s land, the OPDC says it will “no longer be progressing” making use of £250 million earmarked for its use from national government’s housing infrastructure fund “in its current form” for the land in the Old Oak part of the regeneration area that lies north of the Grand Union Canal and includes the Cargiant site.
The mayoral body says its “new focus” will be on the development of land for housing in collaboration with public sector landowners in the area, primarily Network Rail, HS2 and local authorities. The OPDC says it will work with national government and Homes England to “explore the potential for alternative support for a new approach”.
The OPDC was set up in 2015 by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Lister, the former leader of Wandsworth Council who was Johnson’s deputy mayor for planning and his chief of staff. Lister has been serving as Prime Minister Johnson’s chief strategic adviser since July.
Johnson said at the time the regeneration of the Old Oak and Park Royal area, which covers 1,600 acres in total, including around 1,700 businesses, notably food manufacturers, would be transformed into a “Canary Wharf of the West” and his successor, Mayor Khan, has called it “the UK’s largest regeneration project”.
After ordering a review of the OPDC’s progress following his election in May 2016, Mayor Khan described it as “a mess” and a year later named Liz Peace, the former chief executive of the British Property Federation, as Lister’s successor. Peace told On London in March that it would make sense for the OPDC to concentrate its efforts on publicly-owned land to the north of Cargiant whose future transfer had been negotiated under Johnson.
When Cargiant first raised concerns about the OPDC’s approach with the media, a spokesperson for Khan said its “comments are barely worth the paper they are written on”. The OPDC now says it is “keen to work with Cargiant and others to support economic development, jobs and innovation in the area”.
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