A weekly round up of the latest planning and property news from the central London boroughs
React News reports that a joint venture between Montrose Land and AshbyCapital has acquired a 76,000 sq ft office building at 105 Judd Street in Holborn. The five-storey Edwardian building, immediately south of Kings Cross St Pancras, has been acquired for a comprehensive refurbishment to create an innovative office development primarily aimed at companies in the life sciences sector and knowledge economy. The building is being sold by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), as part of a modernisation programme for the charity. The RNIB will remain in the building for approximately two years, while the joint venture draws up proposals for the refurbishment and secures planning consent. The purchase price has not been disclosed.
City of London
Estates Gazette reports that wealth manager JM Finn is the latest firm to sign a new lease deal in the city despite the winter lockdown. The firm has signed for a new London office near Moorgate, which its 250 employees will move into during the second half of this year. The company will take more than 28,700 sq ft across the entire fifth floor and part of the sixth at 25 Copthall Avenue, leaving its current five-floor premises at Coleman Street. JM Finn hopes the new space will provide a more efficient layout and enable more flexibility for workers, as well as accommodating plans for growing the company.
Property Week reports that SEGRO is on the hunt for a site in the City of London for a subterranean logistics hub. The news follows SEGRO’s announcement last year of plans for a mixed-use scheme with an underground warehouse in central Paris, in partnership with commercial developer Icade. Plans for the scheme, which is in the 13th district of the city on the site of the former Gobelins railway station, include an 807,300 sq ft underground logistics hub intended for urban distribution and final-mile delivery. Above ground, Icade will develop a pair of office buildings totalling 150,000 sq ft, along with sports facilities, urban greenhouses and a 1.3ha garden.
Hackney Citizen reports that Hackney Council have voted to release £10m to purchase 25 former right-to-buy properties in Hackney from a housing association. It is hoped that the homes bought from Local Space, a 15-year-old partnership between Newham Council and a group of housing professionals, will support an increased supply of affordable housing in the borough in the “immediate term”. The properties will be let out at social rents.
Kensington & Chelsea
South London Press reports that campaigners are hoping to take Kensington and Chelsea council to court and force it to re-install a controversial cycle lane. The ‘Better Streets for Kensington and Chelsea’ campaigners argue that the mile-long Kensington High Street cycle lane was removed “unlawfully” in early December. The council defended its actions by citing complaints from businesses along the High Street that parking and deliveries had become more difficult, and that congestion had got worse. Earlier this month, Council Leader Elizabeth Campbell announced that a review will be carried out into how the decision was made, and that the cabinet will discuss its officers’ findings in March.
Brixton Buzz reports that the Mayor of London is reconsidering the Hondo Tower decision. Lambeth’s planning application committee voted four to three to approve Hondo Enterprises’ 20-storey office block in Pope’s Road in November. The decision to approve the tower was slammed by the local #FightTheTower campaign, which has since been fundraising to take legal action against it. The campaign was dealt another blow in December when Sadiq Khan backed the decision to approve the tower. The campaign group is now celebrating after it emerged that the Greater London Authority (GLA) had written to Lambeth’s head of planning to say the Mayor’s decision to back the scheme was quashed. The letter, from the head of development management at the GLA, stated that the move was because the Mayor had not seen all the representations received by the council. This means the Mayor’s initial decision to back the scheme is retracted and he will now look the plans “afresh”.
Property Week reports that Southwark Councill has acquired the former Toys ‘R’ Us site at 760 Old Kent Road as part of its plan to extend the Bakerloo Line and build at least 500 homes. The 2.59-acre site was sold by CBRE on behalf of the administrators and is currently occupied by Lidl on a lease expiring in 2028. The Devonshire Square development was unanimously approved last June by Southwark’s planning committee.
Architects Journal reports that Morris+Company’s plans for 79 homes by Russia Dock in south-east London look set to be go ahead after Southwark Council agreed to buy the scheme from British Land. The homes will be built on a 0.36ha site next to the Stave Hill Ecological Park and come under the umbrella of Allies and Morrison’s wider 21ha Canada Water masterplan, although the site sits apart from the main area. Plans for the building were approved in May 2020, but Southwark has only just agreed to buy a 200-year leasehold on the site from British Land for an undisclosed sum. The scheme provides 14 one-bedroom flats, 26 two-bedroom flats and 39 three-bedroom flats. Southwark has said 60 of the homes are earmarked for social rent, while the remaining 19 will be either living rent or shared ownership homes.
Bisnow reports that Hong Kong investor, Cheung Kei has sold a large Canary Wharf office building to U.S. firm Spear Street Capital for £380m – below the 2017 purchase price of £410m. The deal represents a yield of 5.65%. The two main tenants in the building at 20 Canada Square are BP, which leases 244,000 sq ft and McGraw Hill, which leases 243,000 sq ft, although BP has agreed to move to Blackstone’s Cargo building when its lease expires in 2024, leaving a space to lease at the building in the near future. Cheung Kei is a vehicle controlled by investor Chen Hong Tian, and it made a big splash in Canary Wharf in 2017 when it also bought 5 Churchill Place from Saïd Holdings for £270m.
Estates Gazette reports that SGN Place has agreed a joint venture with Mitheridge Capital Management for a major residential-led mixed-use scheme at the former gasworks in Wandsworth. The pair aim to develop around 700 homes across two parcels of land spanning 3.5 acres between the River Wandle and Swandon Way. They are working up plans for a mixed-tenure development with 35% affordable housing, alongside bars, restaurants and creative workspace, to be built over six years. The site is one of the last undeveloped sites in Wandsworth town centre after the gasholders were decommissioned.
React News reports that British online retail giant Asos could reportedly retain Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Circus if it goes ahead with an acquisition of the brand. The three-storey building has been a retail icon since opening back in 1994. The Topshop flagship is not part of the Arcadia assets being overseen by administrator Deloitte. It is controlled by a subsidiary, Redcastle Ltd, to which KPMG is the administrator and real estate agents Eastdil and Savills were recently appointed oversee the sale of the site. Arcadia’s pension fund is reportedly entitled to part of the proceeds from a sale of the flagship.
Estates Gazette reports that flexible working company Fora is targeting an increase in the use of flexible office space, with the opening of a new site in the West End this summer. The 20,500 sq ft site, in Wells Mews, will be set across six floors. It will include an entire floor devoted to wellbeing, a gym and numerous breakout spaces. Since launching in 2017, For a has opened 13 workspaces across London and Reading, used by companies including Nike, Sony and Dropbox. This is the latest move in an investment drive from the company, which has six further spaces in the pipeline, as well as confirming plans to expand internationally in the coming years.