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Q&A: Victoria Hills, OPDC

The Old Oak and Park Royal redevelopment is one of London’s largest regeneration projects, and includes proposals for a huge HS2 station. 2017 could be a pivotal year.

3009451 Victoria Hills chief executive Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation 3

3009451 Victoria Hills chief executive Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation 3

What are your hopes for construction in 2017?

I’m anticipating that 2017 will be an exciting year for infrastructure construction.

Specifically, in Old Oak and Park Royal we are looking forward to our first major site getting on the ground to start the early delivery of affordable homes for Londoners.

We are also awaiting HS2 getting royal assent so that the early site works can begin to deliver a world-class superhub station – broadly 90 per cent the size of London Waterloo with capacity to handle 250,000 passengers a day – connecting London with the UK and the rest of the world.

HS2 Ltd tells me that Old Oak will be the largest sub-surface station to have ever been built in the UK – it doesn’t get much more exciting than that.

What are the top three ways construction will change in the next 12 months?

Renewed confidence courtesy of commitments to major infrastructure projects such as rail and airports, for example.

We’re also likely to see a concerted industry response to the government’s proposals to exit the EU, with a clear request for support to the industry.

Which sectors / areas will you be focusing on in 2017?

Connectivity and design will be key following HS2 royal assent, expected in by early 2017. OPDC will be focusing on transport and, specifically, the new superhub station and how to make the most of the opportunity to deliver affordable homes and good jobs.

London is very fortunate that it will be having two HS2 stations, but these stations must make the most of the development potential by not only enabling development in and around the station but by integrating with the existing communities and transport networks.

It’s clear that Old Oak and Park Royal has a nationally strategic role to play in helping to rebalance the economy, acting as the gateway to the Midlands Engine and the Northern Powerhouse courtesy of its geographical location and transport connectivity.

Working with our northern partners to secure the very best infrastructure support to deliver the wider growth potential is a crucial focus of activity.

OPDC’s Park Royal work programme will focus on protecting and strengthening local businesses, most notably in Park Royal, and working with strategic partners to develop a skills, training and apprenticeships programme to support the construction industry.

Brexit: good or bad for construction?

The mayor of London is determined to secure the best deal for Londoners and the city, and is using the opportunity to remind London, the UK and the rest of the world that #LondonIsOpen!

While there is no doubt that challenges lie ahead for the construction industry, the sector should now collectively set out its stall on what is required to ensure stability and growth.

What were your high and low points of 2016?

High: all the progress we’ve made to date. With more than 11,000 homes in our planning system already, we’re making excellent progress. It’s worth remembering that OPDC is only 18 months old.

Low: with such a large-scale project and pressure from lots of interested parties, it can be difficult to know where to start, but we are taking a pragmatic approach to ensure we have a robust but flexible masterplan in place to support the delivery of this long-term regeneration – one of the most important in London and the UK.

Victoria Hills is chief executive of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation

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