The Duke of Westminster’s property group is to build 1,500 rental homes in south-east London, one of the capital’s biggest “build to rent” developments.
The proposed £500m project will be Grosvenor’s first “build to rent” development – and the first foray into Bermondsey, in south-east London – in the company’s 340-year history. One of Britain’s biggest property owners, it owns swaths of the capital’s most exclusive neighbourhoods in Mayfair and Belgravia.
The firm, owned by 26-year-old Hugh Grosvenor – who became the Duke of Westminster and Britain’s youngest billionaire last year after his father’s sudden death, is tapping into the rising trend for long-term renting among young professionals. This has led to a growing number of build-to-rent projects in Britain in recent years – professionally managed rental accommodation in purpose-built blocks, common in many other countries such as the US.
Grosvenor plans to construct up to 11 blocks of varying heights on a 12-acre former biscuit factory site in Bermondsey. The tallest tower, with 25 storeys, will be built in the centre of the site, adjacent to a railway line, with a route under the line to The Blue local market. The railway arches will be refurbished as commercial space.
Craig McWilliam, chief executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, said the homes were aimed at people on “low and middle incomes who are locked out of London’s housing market”. Some will be made available on a range of discounted market rents, with details yet to be agreed with Southwark council.
Catering for a broad range of incomes, including key workers such as nurses and teachers, the Bermondsey project forms part of Grosvenor’s move into more affordable housing projects.
Grosvenor Group has been hit by the downturn at the top end of the London housing market. It recently reported a steep fall in returns on its British and Irish property portfolio, its worst UK performance since the financial crisis. It blamed Brexit and the increase in stamp duty on luxury properties.
The Bermondsey apartments range from studios to three-bedroom family flats with “good sizes,” according to Simon Harding-Roots, the firm’s executive director of major projects.
Despite the planned swanky entrance area pictured in the draft master plan, he said the firm did not want to create a “yuppie or student ghetto” or a “gated community”. “It’s very much about diversity, from students and families to senior living”.
He said the project was about “genuinely responding to the housing crisis in London, and we think we have a role to play”. The company is targeting local residents and Londoners, he stressed. “It’s a rental product, not an investment product. You would rent the accommodation because you want to live in it.”
A master plan unveiled at the start of a public consultation shows the development with a new 600-place secondary school at its heart, alongside 110,000 sq ft of public space and almost 20,000 sq ft of play space.
The residential towers will have 85,000 sq ft of shops, cafes, restaurants and cultural spaces on the ground floor. The project has been designed by architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. A number of older buildings in the heart of the former Peek Freans biscuit factory, which closed in 1989, will be retained. They are home to small businesses and owned by Workspace Group.
McWilliam said: “London’s housing shortage is too often creating polarised outcomes, with homes for the few who can afford to buy them, and those allocated social rented accommodation. We want to help create one of London’s greatest neighbourhoods for people of mixed incomes, backgrounds and life stages.”
He stressed that Grosvenor would manage all the homes for the long term.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010