lookwestLondon: "Victoria Hills Interview"
"The designated head of the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation, Victoria Hills, is keen to help Old Oak realise its potential without 'meddling with the success' of the wider Park Royal estate.
"Speaking during an exclusive interview at MIPIM, the new Director of the Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) said that she saw the arrival of the new interchange between Crossrail and HS2 as a huge opportunity to leverage regeneration for the whole area.
"In a comment which will be welcomed by many businesses in Park Royal, Hills said, 'We’ve got tremendous interest from utlities companies in Old Oak, so we can lever that to help sort out, for example, broadband issues in Park Royal.' This is part of her goal to help Park Royal benefit from development at Old Oak. This same logic can be applied to energy and water, and hopefully will be.
"Hills said the chance to develop a new town centre with 24,000 homes at 'the most connected part of the UK rail network' did depend on the ability of the GLA to persuade the two rail operators – HS2 and Crossrail – to deliver 'more than just an interchange', something echoed later by speakers at a panel session. There would need to be accessibility to the station from outside, and from London Overground, and the ability to build over the station box, which engineers would need to be told to plan for. This was one of her key goals from her recent meeting with members of the HS2 Transport Select Committee.
"Overall, the most heartening strand of her comments for business already based on Park Royal is that she realises how important it is to the London economy. 'We don’t want to meddle with the success of Park Royal,' she said.
"Indeed, she is looking at other measures to assist Park Royal businesses. When asked about traffic congestion across the estate, she said she was looking at simple measures, such as traffic light rephasing, and simple improvement works at junctions.
"They are open to approach as well. Far from having a fixed idea of what goes where, the OPDC wants to hear suggestions and ideas. For example, she said: 'We’d be delighted to see anything coming forward from land owners along Scrubs Lane.'
"We turned inevitably to the much-publicised debate about the Cargiant site between the eponymous landowner and Queens Park Rangers. The latter wanted to build a new stadium on the former’s land. But Cargiant have, as yet, nowhere to move to, and besides are bringing forward plans with London & Regional for their own development which does not include any football facility.
"Ms Hills echoed Sir Edward Lister’s earlier indication that a CPO would not be likely, and that the best result would be reached by consensus. 'The OPDC’s role is to pull things together, to try to get the best result for London and Londoners,' she said.
"This story was played out in public a little later in the day, as Ms Hills joined a panel session with Geoffrey Springer of London & Regional – Cargiant’s development partner – and Steve Norris, former Transport Minister and now QPR adviser, both on the same platform.
"It was less of a fight than expected. Springer emphasised the importance of placemaking and quality design, while Norris concentrated on the opportunity to create a new location in London. In the end they all agreed that the early strong interest and competing schemes showed the potential of the site.
"Victoria Hills discussed the potential of the regeneration plans to deliver huge scale – 55,000 jobs as well as the 24,000 homes – by delivering certainty in planning, utilities delivery, and speed of decision.
"Pat Hayes of Ealing Council, also on the panel, talked about the challenges. In common with other panelists, he said, 'It needs to be so much more than an interchange, a real place, more like Malmo Western Docks than Nine Elms.' Unsurprisingly he wanted some of the isolation and severance issues around connecting Park Royal to North Acton addressed, so that Ealing communities could also benefit from the new rail connectivity.
"Hayes was also clear that the OPDC would need to set Community Infrastructure Levy at 'an appropriate level', and that the regeneration of Old Oak was 'not just a way to pay for HS2'.
"Hills said this was certainly not the case, and that the CIL was more intended to pay for just the sort of local connections Hayes was arguing for, although would only cover about half the gap between the estimated £1.5bn cost, and the available funding – more work remains to be done.
"Steven Norris echoed the sentiment that Old Oak was about more than connecting train sets. 'Clapham Junction is our busiest railway station, but that activity does not translate into the area outside the station,' he said. It’s true that if London spends 20 years and billions of pounds and produces the equivalent of St John’s Road it might be a disappointment. All the speakers believed that Old Oak could be more like Canary Wharf than Clapham.
"Ms Hills enthusiasm showed through with her final comment. 'It’s an exciting time, a busy time. We’ve got to crack on.' Quite right too."