The Old Oak Common area, a key brownfield site in west London, is the latest part of the capital to be earmarked for huge regeneration, with plans for 24,000 homes and a High Speed 2 and Crossrail "superhub" station due to be constructed.
Premier League football club Queens Park Rangers (QPR) is keen to relocate to the area and has plans to build a 40,000-seat stadium. But the club is locked in a battle with used-car dealership Cargiant, which owns some of the land QPR wants for the proposed venue, and which is pursuing rival regeneration proposals. Can a new mayoral development corporation, approved by ministers last month, break the logjam?
The Old Oak Common and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) is due to come into being at the beginning of April, assuming planning powers for a largely industrial 950-hectare site straddling parts of the London Boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham. In a statement, the mayor's office said one of the OPDC's tasks will be to "work with QPR, Cargiant and all landowners with the aim of maximising the enormous regeneration and growth potential".
In December 2013, QPR floated its vision of relocating to Old Oak Common from its 18,000-seat Loftus Road stadium in Shepherd's Bush. Crucially, however, QPR does not own all of the land that it needs. The club recently said it "controlled" around 40 hectares of the OPDC site, but its vision requires at least a portion of the 22 hectares owned by Cargiant.
Earlier this month, the dealership unveiled a project team for the residential-led mixed-use development of its site, including developer London & Regional Properties and planning consultancy DP9. Cargiant insisted that it is not working with QPR and will not be including any stadium proposals in a masterplan for its land.
While the mayoral development corporation will have powers to compulsorily purchase land, a Cargiant spokesman told Planning that deputy mayor for policy and planning Sir Edward Lister had assured the company that those powers would not be used. "He has already made it clear that there is no possibility of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) being used against Cargiant when we are willing partners in the area's regeneration," he said.
In a statement, the mayor's office told Planning that the OPDC may pursue a compulsory purchase of land "if it is required to secure comprehensive regeneration of the area. But it is too early to say in which circumstances the use of CPO power might be required at this stage".
Roger Hepher, planning director at consultancy Savills - which is part of QPR's project team - said it is not the case that building a new stadium entirely depends on using part of the Cargiant site. "We see planning advantage in the stadium going in the area to the south-east of Willesden Junction Station on a site some of which is owned by Cargiant," he said. "The work that has been done so far seems to identify that as the epicentre of the regeneration scheme. But I don't think the club has ever said that is the only viable option."
The mayor's office pointed out that the proposed regeneration area is "similar in size to a small London borough - a full 950 hectares". Its statement adds: "The deputy mayor believes that there are other sites that could be considered and is hopeful that QPR will eventually enter a commercial transaction with the relevant landowner". According to Hepher, an Opportunity Area Planning Framework for Old Oak Common is due shortly, while City Hall is currently targeting late 2016 for adoption of a local plan for the OPDC area.
Andrew Jones, managing director for planning, development and design at AECOM, believes that when the plans emerge they are unlikely to involve large-scale assembly of private land through CPOs. "Bringing together sites in public ownership will be challenging enough. Developing a working relationship with the small number of private owners is going to be the way forward," he said.
Joanna Averley, director of planning, development and regeneration at property firm GVA, said the corporation would have a limited window to allocate sites in its local plan that would be "potentially suitable" for a major venue. "We've had a few late 20th-century football stadia in London, and it'll be interesting to see what the 21st-century model looks like, in terms of the increasing density of the city and the proximity to residential development that we're willing to accept," she said.