'Senseless' plans to turn Premier House, Edgware into flats

'Senseless' plans to turn office bloc into flats

'Senseless' plans to turn office bloc into flats

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

  Hundreds of businesses fear being left homeless by “senseless” plans to turn their offices into a block of flats.

More than 160 firms in Premier House, in Station Road, Edgware, have been given between two weeks to six months notice to pack up and leave the building, which is owned by Reichmann Properties.

Barnet Borough Council agreed a change of use request after new laws introduced last year left it unable to refuse Reichmann Properties' appeal to turn the  into flats.

Robert Davidson, the co-chairman of the Edgware Business Forum, has been running solicitors firm Davidson & Co from Premier House since 2003.

He said: “Where on earth are hundreds of businesses going to in such a short space of time? It’s devastating. We are all in the same boat as there’s a huge lack of office space.

“We set up the forum five years ago to try and reverse the decline in the high street. This building is absolutely full of vibrant businesses and effectively, we’re being told to sling our hooks.

“We’re being thrown out on the street. It’s going to affect footfall in the area. The Government has stated its intention to support small businesses – but how this fits in with that is a mystery to me.”

According to Barnet Borough Council, businesses were sent letters inviting traders to comment on the plans in May – a claim they all deny.

Chathan Shah, who owns travel agency Sona Tours, said: “I’m not sleeping at the moment, everyone’s miserable about this. It can’t be good for the area.

“It’s such a senseless thing to do. The unimaginable has happened.”

Colvin Jayasinghe, who has owned Colvin and Partners for three years, has been given six months to leave.

He said: “Nobody can understand why turning a vibrant office block into houses is a good thing. I am worried about where I’m going to go.”

The Labour GLA member for Barnet Andrew Dismore, and Hendon's Conservative MP Matthew Offord have both met traders to discuss concerns about the plans.

Elliot Dubey, Reichmann Properties’ sales and acquisitions director, said their original plans were to develop the car park at the back of the property into housing while keeping the offices.

But he added the firm had been “rebuffed” on all occasions.

He said: “Barnet’s stance is very surprising to us, even with the severe housing shortage. Barnet has refused to enter into meaningful dialogue to create a scheme that would add a significant housing supply and give even more reason to retain the commercial use of Premier House.

“We feel in the long run, the benefits of converting the office block into residential properties will outweigh the negatives.”

He added converting Premier House into flats will create 112 reasonably priced flats in a market that is “desperate” for supply.

Under new prior approval legislation, property owners can change use from office to residential use.

Cllr Dan Thomas, deputy leader of Barnet Borough Council, said recent legislation means there are “limited grounds” on which the authority can refuse such applications.

He said: “This is one of these pieces of legislation that has the best of intentions - making it easier to convert empty business premises into much needed housing. Ideally it would be bringing new life back to high streets.

“However this council asked for an exemption from the legislation exactly because we feared that, such is the value of housing land in London, some would be tempted to bypass local authorities to convert viable business premises to housing, whether or not it is appropriate or if alternative premises are available for businesess to move to.”

The council is talking to tenants to see where it can assist with helping find new premises.

Comments (4)

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7:35pm Wed 23 Jul 14

Jon10 says...

How can Barnet council be applying to be exempt from office-to-flats conversion, when it worked with mayor Boris Johnson to actually promote the idea.

And the first building suggested at the time was Barnet House.
How can Barnet council be applying to be exempt from office-to-flats conversion, when it worked with mayor Boris Johnson to actually promote the idea. And the first building suggested at the time was Barnet House. Jon10
  • Score: 5

11:41pm Wed 23 Jul 14

nlygo says...

I can see this going to Court - watch this space!
I can see this going to Court - watch this space! nlygo
  • Score: 2

9:24am Thu 24 Jul 14

BarnetTrader says...

This is a tragic state of affairs, where greed is allowed to trump what is the right thing for the local community.

There is a similar plan to turn Durkan & Checknet House in East Barnet Rd. into another low spec housing block of 30 units. These are tiny ‘studio flats’. This is quite shocking – a relatively large application has been passed by an officer under delegated powers. There were few letters sent out and the lamppost signs minimal and I’m pretty sure left to the last week of ‘consultation’ – or taken down by someone.

It will be like nearby Bejun Court in Station Road, New Barnet. The social problems, including murder, that this ‘development’ has brought has blighted that area. Whilst always wishing to be inclusive, problems arise as a result of the density of deprivation that such developments bring.

The key scandal in these cases is the lack of proper consultation and the passing of these developments without them being put before the Planning committee. I do not believe that Barnet Council has looked into the problem enough so that it can exert control over these applications which are totally in conflict with the Borough Plan. It is allowing a back door for landlords to profit from the public purse – but then what would you expect from a council with a mayor embroiled in these matters.

There will now be a rush to convert all the remaining office blocks in secondary locations.
This is a tragic state of affairs, where greed is allowed to trump what is the right thing for the local community. There is a similar plan to turn Durkan & Checknet House in East Barnet Rd. into another low spec housing block of 30 units. These are tiny ‘studio flats’. This is quite shocking – a relatively large application has been passed by an officer under delegated powers. There were few letters sent out and the lamppost signs minimal and I’m pretty sure left to the last week of ‘consultation’ – or taken down by someone. It will be like nearby Bejun Court in Station Road, New Barnet. The social problems, including murder, that this ‘development’ has brought has blighted that area. Whilst always wishing to be inclusive, problems arise as a result of the density of deprivation that such developments bring. The key scandal in these cases is the lack of proper consultation and the passing of these developments without them being put before the Planning committee. I do not believe that Barnet Council has looked into the problem enough so that it can exert control over these applications which are totally in conflict with the Borough Plan. It is allowing a back door for landlords to profit from the public purse – but then what would you expect from a council with a mayor embroiled in these matters. There will now be a rush to convert all the remaining office blocks in secondary locations. BarnetTrader
  • Score: 13

1:58pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Jon10 says...

The trouble is that the council has no long-term plan, to guide the free market into producing viable commercial centres. It just sits back and does nothing.

For instance I think that Finchley Central should be a significant commercial location, with (surviving) council offices and the council chamber relocated here pedestrianisation of the core, and the raiway line beyond Mill Hill East reopened to the west of the borough. In future years a tram system across outer north London could pass through here, either to New Southgate or Alexandra Palace, both on the proposed Crossrail 2 line.

Instead, empty offices and lack of investment prevail. But this can only be reversed over decades of consistent policies.
The trouble is that the council has no long-term plan, to guide the free market into producing viable commercial centres. It just sits back and does nothing. For instance I think that Finchley Central should be a significant commercial location, with (surviving) council offices and the council chamber relocated here pedestrianisation of the core, and the raiway line beyond Mill Hill East reopened to the west of the borough. In future years a tram system across outer north London could pass through here, either to New Southgate or Alexandra Palace, both on the proposed Crossrail 2 line. Instead, empty offices and lack of investment prevail. But this can only be reversed over decades of consistent policies. Jon10
  • Score: 4

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