The new version of the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework should have set the strategic context for the decisions that Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the GLA will make on the plans for Imperial West.
But publication of the revised version has been delayed for so long that it will follow on from the decision on the Imperial West application, rather than precede it.
The latest proposed date for publication is July 2012, with a statutory period of consultation taking place over the subsequent months. We and others have pointed to the nonsense of consulting on a ‘strategic framework’ after the 3 big developments at Westfield 2, Imperial West, and the former Dairy Crest site have all been decided – in outline or finally. But that is the way that the GLA and LBHF have chosen to work.
The OAPF will eventually be adopted in late 2012 as Supplementary Planning Guidance to the Borough’s Core Strategy, and the London Plan.
A first draft version of the new OAPF was consulted on from April to June 2011. This said that very tall buildings would be ‘appropriate’ along the Westway. The ‘gateway’ concept was used to support this idea.
Many local people objected to this part of the draft OAPF. At a public meeting on 8th June 2011 at St Helens Church, over 75 people turned out to see a presentation on the draft OAPF by the GLA, and to express their disapproval. Ironically, this was a larger audience than for any of the public consultation meetings organised within Hammersmith & Fulham Borough – the borough in which the Opportunity Area sits.
The St Helens Residents Association followed up this public meeting with a letter of objections to the tall buildings proposals in the draft OAPF. Many other local residents did likewise.
The draft document has since been undergoing a slow process of revision by the GLA and LBHF. Do not underestimate the political pressure that planners at the GLA and LBHF will have come under, as they have struggled to find a form of words that will allow for very tall buildings at Imperial West and on the former Dairy Crest site – despite almost total lack of public support for such ideas.
The 2011 round of consultation on the new draft OAPF was an informal exercise. This means that the amount of ‘material weight’ that can be placed on the document in making planning decisions is limited (as the OAPF itself states). Material weight will increase as this planning framework for White City goes through a second formal round of consultation.
A set of GLA slides that shows the latest state of play on the revised White City OAPF was presented to a conference organised by New London Architecture in May 2012. The slides can be seen at this link.
If you compare the 2011 version of the ‘masterplan’ for the area with the latest 2012 slide, you will see that the new version now reflects the individual schemes developed by Westfield, Helical Bar, and Imperial College. These get slotted in to the Opportunity Area, with only the Marks & Spencer site left undecided. This is supposed to become an east-west ‘linear park’ but M&S will want to achieve something other than this in terms of commercial return.
So the public will be consulted later this year on a new OAPF masterplan that reflects the commercial ambitions of different developers, with planning approvals already given. This is the cart leading the horse, but that’s LBHF style ‘strategic planning’ for you!