After two multi-million-pound property deals in High Barnet last year, the one to watch in 2022 is the sale of Barnet Police Station which is one of the surplus properties due to be sold off by the Metropolitan Police.
Speculation about the future development prospects for the police station site – and the likelihood that it could be sold for housing – has been heightened by the plans for further residential construction on the former site of Barnet Market and the possibility of future development in and around The Spires Shopping Centre.
Timing of the sale of Barnet Police Station might well be determined by the outcome of the London Borough council elections on Thursday 5 May.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, announced last summer that Barnet’s station – one of 37 from which counter services were withdrawn in 2017 – was one of the surplus police stations being earmarked for sale.
Plans to close the police stations at Barnet and Whetstone were first announced in 2013 when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London as part of measures to save the Metropolitan Police £500 million by 2015. (Updated 24.1.2022, see comment below).
Woodford Green Police Station was the latest to be placed on the market and is being sold with the potential for redevelopment into homes – a marketing pitch that is likely to be repeated in Barnet.
Sited at the top Barnet Hill, the police station has always had a prominent position in the High Street with extensive office space at the rear, over four storeys, together with parking for police vehicles – providing ample space for redevelopment.
With campaigning about to start for the May elections to Barnet Council, the future of the police station – which has remained the base for High Barnet’s Safer Neighbourhood Team of dedicated police officers – is likely to become topical local issue.
When front counter services were withdrawn in 2017 and replaced with a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week counter service at Colindale Police Station, the Metropolitan Police indicated the building would be sold once new premises had been found for the neighbourhood ward officers, but so far there has been no word of where their new base might be.
The Chipping Barnet MP, Theresa Villiers, has been campaigning for some months to save the station because without a base in High Barnet, she fears the local neighbourhood officers would also be transferred to Colindale.
Debate about the future of the police station has already begun. There are some arguments in favour of selling it off so that the site can be used for affordable housing and some of the proceeds directed towards the provision of a new base for the Safer Neighbourhood Team.
The sale last year of the site of the former Barnet Market for between £2.5 and £3 million has still to be completed.
Property agents Cushman and Wakefield told the Barnet Society that the sales agreement had still to be finalised, but the so far unnamed purchaser has plans for housing development.
The sales prospectus for the 0.4-acre site had suggested two options: A four-storey block of flats on the corner with St Albans Road, plus nine town houses along the length of Chipping Close; or two blocks of flats of three and four storeys.
Further details have now emerged about the funding for the purchase last year by BYM Capital of The Spires shopping centre which was put up for sale by the Canadian pension fund AIMCO and was marketed as offering great potential for being redeveloped with a mix of retail and residential development, perhaps including five-storey blocks of flats.
Earlier this month, the magazine Business Leader reported that the real estate specialist ASK Partners had lent BYM Capital £21.65 million to refinance a short-term bridge to fund the acquisition of The Spires.
There was no mention in the magazine’s report of potential residential development in or around The Spires site and instead the emphasis was on its future as a neighbourhood shopping destination.
“With Waitrose as the anchor tenant, the centre is an important part of the local retail provision and holds a prominent position in Barnet, just off the High Street.
“It consists of 114,052 square feet of retail space across 32 retail units, a food store, and a gym. In addition, there is a 436-space multi-storey carpark.
“The Spires has a vast catchment area within a well-connected area of North London. Just ten minutes’ walk from High Barnet station, it sees significant footfall and is widely considered the highest quality retail environment within Barnet town centre.
“It has a very high current occupancy rate of 94% with other tenants including H&M, WH Smith, Waterstones and JD Sports.”
Lucinda Lee-Bapty, Chief Operating Officer at BYM Capital, told Business Leader: “This asset’s value is strongly underpinned by long-term leases to well-known national tenants, in particular Waitrose. We were delighted to work with ASK as a valued funding partner and appreciate their understanding of the market and our asset management strategy.”
Elliot Blatt, Investment Manager at ASK said: “We were delighted to provide financing to BYM Capital on this site. Retail has clearly been significantly impacted by the pandemic, but shopping centres such as this with anchor tenants on long leases are still benefiting from high occupancy and footfall. I believe customers are still looking for a retail experience, possibly even more so since the national lockdowns and I am sure BYM Capital will be successful in their approach.”