A property development company specialising in office-to-residential conversions has bought the Spires shopping centre and its five-acre site between Barnet High Street and Stapylton Road for £28 million.

BYM Capital is paying £3 million more than the suggested sale price of £25 million but far less than the £40 million paid by the Canadian pension fund AIMCO when it purchased the complex in 2015.

So far, BYM has released no information about its plans, but the sale underlines the uncertain future facing the Spires with its Waitrose supermarket, NCP car park and cafes fronting on to the High Street.

Distressed shopping centres are up for sale across the country and developers are poised to take advantage of changes in planning law that take effect in August and which allow for the change of use of town centre commercial, business and service buildings and their conversion for housing.

The Barnet Society and other groups are urging Barnet Council – which owns the freehold of the Spires site – to prepare a planning brief for the future of the shopping complex and surrounding area. Previous efforts to revive the Spires have been appreciated by residents and its well being is seen as essential to maintaining High Barnet as a popular shopping destination. 

When the Spires was placed on the market in March, real estate advisers Savills said the centre offered great potential for being redeveloped with a mix of retail and residential development.

An aerial view of the how centre might be redeveloped showed the existing courtyards and malls replaced with a large courtyard formed around five storey blocks of flats with retail premises on the ground floor.

React News, a property website which was the first to report news of the sale, described BYM Capital as an investor and developer engaged in the conversion of offices into flats.

In 2018, BYM bought the former BskyB headquarters in West London for £98 million for conversion into 271 flats and followed that in 2019 with the purchase of the former Mothercare headquarters in Watford.

Mark Garmon-Jones, Savills’ head of shopping centre investment, told the Barnet Society that he could not comment further on the sale to BYM Capital or future plans for the Spires.

He confirmed there had been considerable interest from developers and investors who had seen the potential for regenerating the Spires which had added appeal because there was considerable space around the centre for future development.

The sale of the Spires and uncertainty about its redevelopment has highlighted continuing concern over the future of the twice-weekly Barnet stalls market which is under the control of the Spires management.

In recent weeks, following the easing of lockdown, the market has flourished and often on Saturdays has eight, nine or even ten stalls, entirely filling its allocated space around the bandstand at the Waitrose entrance.

There is similar uncertainty about the stalled plan to build a 100-bed Premier Inn on the former market site at the corner of St Albans Road and Chipping Close.

Planning permission for the hotel was granted in November 2018 and expires in November this year.

Currently the site is owned by Aberdeen City Council which purchased it for £4million in 2019 – at a time when the parent company Whitbread was indicating that the new hotel would open in time for Christmas 2020 – a target date that inevitably became a casualty of the covid-19 pandemic.  

React News says the Borough of Barnet is an area which is proving highly proactive among buyers of retail assets looking for development opportunities.

In February it reported that Barnet Council was buying Brent Cross retail park for £55 million as part of the land assembly for the mix-used £5 billion Brent Cross master plan; nearby the Staples Corner shopping park was sold for £28 million to the Bestway Group with the potential for residential conversion; and last year residential developer Ballymore purchased the Broadwalk shopping centre in Edgware and is working up plans for 3,500 homes.  

Comments (5)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

A mixed use development might be ok. There is generally an over supply of retail in HB. A more focussed, higher quality retail and leisure offer and some well designed family orientated housing is quite attractive I’d say.

Andy C
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I'm concerned about all the shops that I'm not necessarily a customer of, but are well loved by other people in High Barnet. I'd be massively disappointed if we lost Waterstones. EE, JD Sports are really big brands, and we're lucky to have them.

Coffee Bean has massive loyalty, and is extremely well loved by its customers. Savers has always...

I'm concerned about all the shops that I'm not necessarily a customer of, but are well loved by other people in High Barnet. I'd be massively disappointed if we lost Waterstones. EE, JD Sports are really big brands, and we're lucky to have them.

Coffee Bean has massive loyalty, and is extremely well loved by its customers. Savers has always been really busy. Costa too. Consider the loyal customers of the florist, CEX, Orchid, Anytime Fitness, etc.

I'm concerned that re-development would mean we loose most of them.

In other shopping centres, units have been taken over by Rock Climbing centres (Lakeside & Watford). I could see one of the empty big unit being used for this, and local families would really love it.

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Paul
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Anyone who thinks this is a good thing for the area is being incredibly naive. All around the borough mass developments of unaffordable housing are being pushed, not for the benefit of residents, but for the benefit of developers. Residents should be holding their elected representatives to account, and ask why they and their privatised...

Anyone who thinks this is a good thing for the area is being incredibly naive. All around the borough mass developments of unaffordable housing are being pushed, not for the benefit of residents, but for the benefit of developers. Residents should be holding their elected representatives to account, and ask why they and their privatised planning and 'regeneration' services are more committed to the facilitation of developers, than meeting the housing needs of local communities.

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Theresa Musgrove
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Any scheme however brilliant could be a case of the operation being a complete success but the patient dying. A singular critical issue is likely to be the loss of direct access from the carpark to the High Street probably for years during any redevelopment. Many High Street businesses failed when access through the site was blocked when the...

Any scheme however brilliant could be a case of the operation being a complete success but the patient dying. A singular critical issue is likely to be the loss of direct access from the carpark to the High Street probably for years during any redevelopment. Many High Street businesses failed when access through the site was blocked when the Spires was built. The same thing happening again would be a tragedy now it seems the pandemic is breeding a new generation of shop keepers. It could kill the High Street.

I agree with what Gail is asking for, thank you for putting it so eloquently. But, and it is a big but, I find it hard to believe the recent sale is pointing us in that direction. It is not just a question of wanting fully tenanted housing and shops and restaurants in a beautiful new town centre in keeping with its historic character and with a thriving High Street stretching into the distance on either side. It is how we would get there.

Any independent traders would have to relocate or cease trading through the work. Chain operators would just leave. Would re-tenanting the entire commercial offer on completion years away be viable? Would the possibility even be a concern of developers primarily and solely experienced in building high return low cost housing?

Waitrose and the carpark have some protection in the lease from Barnet Council but it is hard to see how another large retail unit such as H&M's could be compatible with a mixed development. For developers this is not about building shops, it is about building housing units and another large shop would cost too many of them.

BYM's almost certain priority will be to get planning approval as fast as possible with anything that increases the value of their investment and then sell it on before a single high vis jacket arrives on site.

So every time we sit down to discuss the planning brief and its implementation we will be faced with new people on the other side of the table with different papers in front of them. Anything BYM promises is therefore not the point, they will not be the ones delivering it or otherwise.

Someway down the line we will have a marketing operation for apartments, beyond reasonable doubt buy–to–let and similarly likely to be the usual offer of tiny two, one and no bedroom apartments. Then the shop units will be put on the market untenanted and as a single lot to realise their residual value.

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Nick Saul
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This could be a great opportunity for us and will hopefully offer a well designed, good quality mixed use centre in the heart of our town centre. Residential sits well with retail and this could help to kick start a much needed night time economy. It is important that a well thought out planning brief is prepared in consultation with the...

This could be a great opportunity for us and will hopefully offer a well designed, good quality mixed use centre in the heart of our town centre. Residential sits well with retail and this could help to kick start a much needed night time economy. It is important that a well thought out planning brief is prepared in consultation with the Chipping Barnet Town Team, Barnet Council and interested members of the community, and adhered to by BYM Capital. Like many other small shopping centres The Spires has been struggling and injecting new life into it will help raise the bar in the centre and the high street too. What is important is that the current anchor stores Waitrose, Botannika Nkora and possibly H & M are given opportunity to remain and be involved in any discussion moving forward.

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Gail Laser Love Barnet
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