We keep an eye on local office and business space developments (see our previous article on the subject here) – because being able to access reasonably local jobs and employment matter more than ever now, and because the office space we do have is under constant pressure from conversion to housing! Which is why it’s good to see that the owners of the Battersea Studios are exploring whether they can add build a new building, to add space to the existing development.
A bit of context – the Battersea Studios premises have a long and complicated history. It was originally built in the 1970’s as a warehouse for BT – but then turned into the ‘Middle East Broadcasting Centre‘, a film studio that transmitted a free-to-air satellite service to a huge audience across the Middle East and further afield. A company called Helical Bar bought it in 2005 for £8 million (in the face of stiff competition from broadcaster Al Jazeera who also wanted a ready-made London studio), and converted the studios to 56,000 square feet of small workspaces (though kept several small TV studios). The property was a success and they had no trouble at all in attracting tenants – so they built a second building with another 50,000 square feet of office space, before selling the whole property in 2005 for £35 million to the Schroder UK Property Fund.
At the time they sold it, the whole complex generated £1.47 million of rent a year. At an average of £21.50 a square foot this is good quality office space at affordable rates. To put this number in context – more high-profile locations like Victoria can run at £75 for high end space and £60 for more rudimentary offices, and even far-flung spots like Stratford run at £30-45 – so it’s not surprising it is popular! It’s especially targeted at more creative businesses (who don’t mind being next to the railway and one of London’s largest concrete batching plants).
The new proposals are at a very early stage – essentially the owners have approached Wandsworth planners for an early steer (a ‘scoping opinion’) on whether they can reasonably hope to build a new ten storey building – with light industrial uses on the ground floor, and offices above. Broadly adding more of the same, given they have not had any real difficulty letting the space they have.
Despite being a tall building proposal, the nature of what is being built and more importantly where it is being built mean this doesn’t seem an especially controversial idea – it won’t overshadow anyone, and it is buried quite deep in the industrial estate, fairly far from any roads or houses. It would go on a back yard corner that houses a small raised platform with satellite dishes on it (serving the studios in the building). The site is already a designated industrial area in both the Borough strategy and local plan & the London planning frameworks – housing a major concrete batching plant (our photo below).
With office space near where people live still in high demand (despite the near term impacts of the Coronavirus) and the spaces we do have locally always under threat of conversion to flats, going upwards is one of the only ways Wandsworth can provide the space needed to house jobs and employment – and we suspect that if this does proceed to a planning application, despite being twice the height of its immediate neighbours, it will see some support.