The move is part of a government drive to offload land and public buildings for housing development. Police stations, including New Scotland Yard, are up for grabs, too, along with high-profile former ministry buildings such as the old War Office in Whitehall.
A website enabling individuals, communities and businesses to submit online applications to buy sites is being set up, paving the way for thousands of new homes. Coinciding with this is part-privatisation of the Land Registry, the nation’s property data bank.
Planning permission for commercial-to-residential conversions has already been scrapped in most of the London boroughs, sparking a stampede to develop buildings across the capital.
As an example, he cites builder Redrow’s acquisition of the national police training centre in Hendon for transformation into a new neighbourhood with 1,650 new homes, a primary school, shops, cycle routes and open space.
Clerkenwell fire station, is opposite Mount Pleasant sorting office, where Royal Mail plans to build homes. Image: Getty
The 10 London fire stations for sale
For a real trophy building look no further than the former Basil Street fire station in Knightsbridge, in a pretty lane behind Harrods. It closed last month as part of London Fire Brigade cuts to save £29 million, and is a striking Edwardian building, perhaps the jewel in the crown of the 10 stations up for sale. Another station, at Greycoat Place, SW1, would bring swish homes to improving Victoria, while the station at Clerkenwell faces Mount Pleasant postal depot, where Royal Mail is proposing to build 683 homes.
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Blue lamps are being replaced by red “for sale” signs at handsome Metropolitan Police stations in sought-after locations across the capital.
On the list are Hampstead station and magistrates’ court and classic red-brick stations at Clapham, Brockley, Hackney, Winchmore Hill and Wanstead. Another one, at St John’s Wood, dating from 1847, is among the earliest established police stations in London. Estate agent Knight Frank is handling the sales, mostly by a tender process. Call 020 7861 5443. Berkeley Homes has already bought Whetstone station for redevelopment into 83 flats and houses. Call 01753 784 417.
Older conversions such as Barnes and Putney police stations have evolved into fashionable addresses. A three-bedroom duplex at a former station in Westminster has views over lovely Vincent Square and is on the market for £2 million. Call Foxtons on 020 7558 4000.
From £1.81 million: apartments at Abell & Cleland House, former ministry buildings near Millbank. Call 020 7118 9190
London's conversion fever
The pace of commercial-to-residential conversions has accelerated since last May, when the Government scrapped the need for planning permission in most local authorities in a bid to create 130,000 new homes. In London, several areas including the City financial district, Canary Wharf, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the West End business zone were exempted.
In December, a group of councils including Islington, Camden and Richmond lost a legal challenge to be declared exempt. Boroughs claim that the loss of offices will lead to economic decline by forcing out businesses, and will create “dormitory” areas in outer London.
Archway Tower, a former social security office in Holloway, is to be turned into flats without planning permission by developer Essential Living, despite objections by the local council.
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Robinson says many of the buildings may be unsuitable for housing, and could attract less reputable developers who, not having to go down the normal planning permission route, may be able to avoid providing amenities such as shops and parking.
Others say the chase for office buildings could destabilise the property market by creating an oversupply of residential property and a shortage of well-located offices in central London. Behind the scenes, Westminster council has been seeking a clampdown on conversions. The borough is in the eye of the conversion storm and wants to maintain a “mix and balance of uses to protect the small-scale, lower-value building stock suitable for small and medium-size businesses that bring vitality to an area and are the lifeblood of the economy”.
From £1.95 million: for luxury apartments in a development of 71 homes at former police section houses in Ebury Square, Pimlico
Listed status safety net in Westminster
Because many buildings in central Westminster borough are listed and layers of restrictions apply, the council may be able to thwart developers’ ambitions to convert. However, this has not stopped redevelopment of former ministry buildings including Abell & Cleland House, close to Millbank. Prices from £1.81 million — call Berkeley Homes on 020 7118 9190. The same developer is poised to launch 190 Strand, another big office-to-residential project.