BYM Capital, owners of High Barnet's shopping centre The Spires, have become insolvent. Administrators appointed by the High Court are now in charge of the company.
An official announcement in the London Gazette has finally provided an explanation for BYM’s failure to publish revised plans for a scheme to replace much of the shopping centre with five and six storey blocks of flats.
Despite the appointment of administrators, re-assurance has been issued to existing tenants and shoppers that the day-to-day running of the centre will continue as normal.
A statement from the Spires management said the operation of the centre was financed through a separate fund, Permitted Developments Investments. That funding was said to be secure and there would be no impact on the daily running of the centre.
Redwood Consulting, which represents BYM Capital, also insisted that The Spires would continue to operate "as usual" because it was funded separately and was not subject to the administration. Redwood insisted BYM Capital still intended to develop a plan for the Spires that "meets the aspirations of the community following an exhaustive round of public consultation".
"BYM Capital are still working with their core team, advisors and investors to review the scheme and will provide an update on the proposals in due course."
Redwood Consulting's statement gives no hint as to when new proposals might be ready. This is in sharp contrast to what BYM indicated in April at an exhibition to promote its proposals. The company said then that a revised scheme would be released this summer in the hope of obtaining approval by the spring of 2024.
Fresh consultations were promised with community groups such as the Barnet Society and Barnet Residents Association before BYM made a planning application to Barnet Council.
But with no news from the company during the last few months there has been a growing sense of frustration within the town over the lack information about the long-term future of The Spires and the plan for around 300 new homes.
A timeline published in the London Gazette sets out what has happened: petitions to wind up BYM Capital, listed as a property investment company, were received on 29 September; administrators were appointed by the High Court on 19 October; and the two administrators took charge on 26 October.
A decline in the real estate value of The Spires; worsening trading opportunities in the shopping centre with an increasing number of vacant units; and now the news that BYM is insolvent raise many questions which will only add further unwelcome uncertainty at a difficult time for town centres like High Barnet.
BYM bought the lease of The Spires for £28 million in May 2021. Tenants with retail space in the shopping centre include Waitrose, H&M, W H Smith, Poundland, Savers, Waterstones, several restaurants, cafes, and a gym.
Business press reports at the time said that real estate funding specialist ASK Partners had provided BYM with a £21.65m loan facility to refinance a short-term bridge taken out to fund the acquisition.
When AIMCO, a Canadian pension fund, sold The Spires to BYM for £28 million – well below the previous valuation of £40 million – the five-acre site centre was advertised as having the potential for a mix of retail and residential development.
BYM increased the size of the site – see illustration below – in September 2022 after purchasing for around £3 million the unused former car park at the junction of Chipping Close and St Albans Road.
This was to have been the site of a Premier Inn. Under BYM’s plans it would become a site for residential development.
An aerial view showing how The Spires might be redeveloped was published in 2021 by real estate advisers Savills proposing several five-storey blocks of flats with shops and cafes on the ground floor.
When BYM exhibited its draft scheme in April this year, BYM’s head of planning Dean Jordan (see above), insisted that redevelopment of The Spires with up to 300 flats was an essential next step given the trading difficulties that the shopping centre faced.
A new pedestrian thoroughfare would be created through the shopping centre, from the High Street to Stapylton Road, with 24-hour access, and there would be “new places to eat, drink and shop” while retaining Waitrose, other key outlets, and Barnet Market.
He said that since BYM purchased The Spires, the retail trade had changed. “We have vacancies in the centre, and outlets are harder and harder to let. Given the way The Spires is declining, we must invest for the future.”
An indication that BYM was facing financial difficulties was apparent on the government’s Companies House website which stated its accounts were overdue. The next statement date is 22 November.
On its own website, BYM says that since the company was founded in 2016 it has become a substantial player in residential and commercial property and has total assets of over £700 million under management and development.
Its residential portfolio comprises 1,200 units currently completed or under development, complemented by approximately 2 million square feet of office and retail space.
A company goes into administration when the directors or the secured lenders appoint administrators through the High Court to protect the company and their position as much as possible.
The task of the administrators is to run the business. They can cancel or renegotiate contacts or make employees redundant. Administrators can recover as much money as possible for creditors, but often rescuing the company as a going concern is the main objective.
Barnet Council owns the freehold to The Spires site and in recent months there has been increasing pressure on the council to take a closer involvement in the future of the shopping centre and the plans to redevelop it.
Dan Tomlinson, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Chipping Barnet, said the local community deserved to be updated.
“High Barnet can’t be left in limbo. We do need an explanation as to what this announcement about the appointment of administrators means for both the management of the shopping centre and future possible redevelopment.”