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Hon. Vice Presidents

A head-hunter calls – seizing the opportunity of Old Oak Common


Liz Peace CBE Non-Executive Director at Morgan Sindall, Redrow and Howard de Walden, Adviser to a range of others, and Chairman of LandAid, Curzon Regeneration Company and the Government Property Unit’s New Asset Management Company

Cambridge University Land Society

ne of the things I have learned about a portfolio existence is that you never quite know what is going to happen to your portfolio or what you will actually be doing from one year to the next. And you also don’t know when something really unexpected and incredibly exciting is going to come along. But the advantage is that, unlike having a full time position, you can actually adapt your portfolio to take on that really big challenge when it appears. Twelve months ago I was enjoying a wide variety of different non-executive and advisory roles, some with companies and others unpaid in the charity and social housing sectors. As far as I could see everything looked pretty stable and I imagined most of those roles would go on for some time. But a couple suddenly dropped off for different reasons – a board re-structuring,

a merger – and I began to think I might have some spare time to pick up those new leisure activities I had promised myself - learning a new language, cultivating my limited painting skills. And then at the beginning of this year the head-hunters rang and asked if I might be interested in applying to be the chairman of London’s Old Oak and Park Royal Mayoral Development Corporation – or OPDC for short. And that was the start of something that has now become one of my principal missions – the regeneration of a 650-hectare area in West London, almost twice the size of Central Park in New York. Just to be clear about the challenge, this site is an intriguing mixture of industrial brownfield land, crisscrossed by railway lines, a traditional trading estate (that’s the Park Royal bit) and an area of common land roughly the size of Hyde Park known as Wormwood Scrubs. There are also some small 20

but significant residential communities around the periphery, and a very large stretch of the Grand Union Canal running through the middle. What gives this site such regeneration potential is the plan to locate at the southern end of it one of London’s two HS2 stations – the last stop before the new trains rush on into Euston. This is also where HS2 meets Crossrail – and for good measure we also have the West Coast mainline to the north, the Great West Main line to the south, two tube lines and three different braches of the London Overground. In fact, it must be one of the best-connected sites in the country, offering the opportunity to build a new community the size of Woking, with potentially some 25,500 homes and 65,000 jobs, and for that community to be planned and designed as a truly sustainable, modern suburb fit for the 21st century with a low carbon footprint, excellent facilities and a 2017

CULS Magazine 2017  
CULS Magazine 2017