Friday, 4 December 2015

What is The White City Opportunity Area?

White City Opportunity Area. LBH&F
The White City Opportunity Area is the bit of Shepherd's Bush and White City that is currently the focus of a number of huge regeneration plans, encompassing new developments up and down Wood Lane, and West from Shepherd's Bush Green into Uxbridge Road.

Taken together, these developments will change the face of Shepherd's Bush completely over the next decade.

According to the Council's official site, the Opportunity Area "covers 110 hectares, including Shepherd’s Bush Town Centre, the BBC and Queens Park Rangers Football Club".

But what do the words "Opportunity Area" really mean in practice?

The purpose of the White City Opportunity Area
White City Opportunity Area. Mayor of London
According to LBH&F's official site, the Council is looking to:

"attract new homes and jobs, with a focus on creative industries and innovation in bio-medical research. We'd like to create new areas of open space, improved facilities for local people and provide better pedestrian and cycling connections in light of the area's physical barriers and create a mixed and balanced community".

What are the big developments coming our way?
Imperial West

Major developments underway within the White City Opportunity Area include:
  • Westfield - big new expansion currently underway, including a new John Lewis, on land to the north of their current site.
  • BBC Television Centre - massive project by Stanhope to redevelop the old BBC site on Wood Lane, currently in demolition.
  • BBC White City. Also being redeveloped by Stanhope, on the old BBC site next to the Westway, to be re-branded White City Place.
  • Marks and Spencer White City - huge plan by developer St James to redevelop the old M&S warehouse site, including the creation of a whole new public park. The project includes big steel and glass skyscrapers, much like Paddington Basin, with demolition of all existing structures.
  • Imperial College White City - a massive new expansion of higher education north of the Westway - an entire new campus on 25 acres of land.
  • Former Dairy Crest site - a huge site to the east of Wood Lane, now owned by Imperial College, and part of their new Imperial West project both north and south of the Westway.
  • Shepherd's Bush Market - controversial plan by developer Orion to redevelop the old market. Currently stalled in apparently endless litigation. 
  • Hammersmith Park. Play Football now have permission to move ahead with their controversial plan to create up to a dozen new football pitches in Hammersmith Park.

What exactly is the White City Opportunity Area?
LBH&F produced a planning framework for the area called the "White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework". It was produced "jointly with the Greater London Authority along with Transport for London to provide guidance for development within the area".

What does that really mean in practice?
According to the Mayor of London's website, Opportunity Areas (or "OA"s) are:

"London’s major source of brownfield land which have significant capacity for development – such as housing or commercial use - and existing or potentially improved public transport access. Typically they can accommodate at least 5,000 jobs, 2,500 new homes or a combination of the two, along with other supporting facilities and infrastructure. "

How does that affect Planning Decisions?
The Mayor of London's website states that OAs should:
  • "seek to optimise residential and non-residential densities and provide infrastructure to sustain growth
  • contribute towards meeting the minimum guidelines for housing and/or employment capacity
  • realise scope for intensification associated with improvements in public transport accessibility and promote inclusive access including cycling and walking
  • support wider regeneration and integrate development proposals to the surrounding areas especially Areas for Regeneration."

Presumably then, the idea is to loosen planning restrictions in Opportunity Areas, and make them more developer-friendly.  If London is to grow - the logic goes - it should be in these designated "brownfield" areas.

Shepherd's Bush Conservation Area

How does that really work, given that Shepherd's Bush Green is also a Conservation Area?
This is unclear. Sometimes government takes with one hand, and gives with another. So, while Shepherd's Bush may fall within the Opportunity Area, parts of it also fall within a Conservation Area, and these two policies are in many ways in direct opposition to one another, at least as far as planning decisions go.

For example, in June the Council rejected an application by Dorsett Regency to demolish the old Shepherd's Bush Palladium (until recently a Walkabout pub) and replace it with a block of flats, a proposal which would undoubtedly have "optimised residential density" - the stated purpose of the Opportunity Area.

Planning policy in London is nothing if not complex and confusing.

To see more about the White City Opportunity Area, follow this link.


The Bush Telegraph offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us at shepherdsbushblog(at)

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