Since Westfield announced plans for an extension of their existing shopping mall to the north, a £1bn plan to build 1500 new homes 550,000 sq ft of retail, plans have emerged for the BBC TV Centre site, and the former DairyCrest dairy, while Imperial College have built a new campus on the former BBC Woodlands site. Most recently, plans emerged to turn the massive Marks & Spencer warehouse into 2,000 new homes.
It’s a stunning turnaround that could bring 10,000 jobs to the area – more than enough to replace those lost with the significant scale down of the BBC’s operations in the area.
More than this, the jobs are likely to be in fast-growing leisure, robust retail, or the ‘knowledge economy’ that early every location in the country is trying to attract.
Imperial’s plans are hugely significant. Their research oriented campus should produce a large number of companies spun out to commercialise the results of their work, and encourage a range of high-tech suppliers to locate in the area. They intend to house many students and staff in the area, with 600 postgrad rooms on site at Woodlands, and their acquisition of the ‘Brickfields’ site – the former DairyCrest dairy site just south of the Westway, which has planning consent for 1150 homes – they are looking to put down serious roots in the area.
The presence of this world-famous knowledge brand could more than offset the loss of the majority of BBC operations to Cardiff and Manchester, and should ut White City on the map in a big way. Indeed, Imperial have already reached an agreement with Zhejiang University in China to co-location R&D facilities at Imperial West in White City. Chinese investment is a huge plus for the area, and should again lead to ne jobs, and significant economic value.
The BBC itself is not running away. It plans to leave a significant presence on Wood Lane, and will retain an interest in the redeveloped TV Centre with partner Stanhope. The corporation's plans to open up Television Centre into a mixed use development, which as well as office and studio space for the BBC, will include other office space, entertainment and leisure facilities, public open space, offices, housing and a hotel.
This still all looked a little disjointed, with the link between the Dairy site and Westfield’s northern extension blocked by the huge M&S store concept testing warehouse. This massive shed, a key part of M&S’ store improvement programme, but only supporting a couple of dozen jobs, has now been sold to St James, a division of Berkeley Homes, who plan a 2,000 home development.
The transformation of the White City area from dirt-track scrapyard to greyhound track to smart, knowledge-driven, urban quarter could complete. True, it will take 20 years for all this to happen, but the work has started.