10 July 2014


copyright: Barnet Rebel aka Mr Courgette
Mr Mustard was rather late last night to the 7pm meeting of the Assets, Regeneration & Growth Committee which he now thinks of as the Aaargh committee, rolling in just after 8pm having already had a meeting about a sale of a flat, visited a friend who has had a stroke and visited a PCN crime scene at Hampstead Heath where the supposed bay suspension sign had already fled and been replaced with later dated ones (hardly worth having a parking bay if it is suspended every other day).

One item which caught his eye was the option to purchase the freehold of Barnet House, that ghastly office block which used to be the Ever Ready tower block and in which Barnet Homes and Barnet Council have the lease until September 2032 at £745,000 per annum. The council think they have a current repair liability of £5.4m and will incur the same amount again on surrender. This idea was put to the earlier meeting of this committee on 16 June which was deemed not to be constitutional and so did not go ahead. After the meeting did not go ahead officers decided they had the right to do this anyway and did it. Should officers be given the power to spend £62,500 is an interesting question?

Why does the council want the option to buy the freehold? It is basically because they haven't sorted out where they want their offices and how many square feet they need. They want to exercise the break clause to quit building 4 on the North London Business Park in 2015 and move staff into building 2 and also into Barnet House and then once they have worked out their space requirements will present an options appraisal to this committee in September.

So because they don't yet know what they are doing they are taking an option on Barnet House which they might not exercise and for which they are paying £50,000 + the £12,500 legal costs of the freeholder (which seem excessive). So Richard Cornelius spoke yesterday about the problem of dilapidations. Why do we have them? simple, because the council can't have done the necessary maintenance year on year to keep the building up to scratch. They are a bogus justification for taking an option on the freehold. Barnet Council seem to have a policy of neglecting buildings in its care, take Church Farmhouse Museum and the Physic Well as two other notable examples.

Richard doesn't like looking at Barnet House as he trolls up to Totteridge & Whetstone tube station each morning. Ask yourself this question Richard, which idiot planning authority gave permission to build it, would it have been Barnet Council? (before your time of course which is why you need a 50 or 100 year vision for planning and why Brent Cross is the disaster that people will talk about in 2114)

Richard also said that a building so tall would not be allowed again in that location so it is unlikely to be pulled down. If Barnet Council do buy the freehold that is exactly what they should do.

Now what happened when the building was offered for sale with a deadline of March 14? No-one seems to have made an offer to buy otherwise the freeholder would not accept an option to buy. Thus all that has happened is that the freeholder has been unable to sell and someone at Barnet Council has decided to offer £50,000 to the freeholder to not sell a building that they couldn't sell. No wonder the option was taken up by the freeholder.

Could this £62,500 have been better spent? Mr Mustard thinks it could.

One small caveat. If the intention was to demolish the tower block and put up something smaller (this is not stated in any report) then he is all in favour but in which case just buy it and don't waste money on an option. As ever, reports to councillors don't give out the full detail. Mr Mustard will be asking questions, many of them and quite hard ones, at the next meeting on 8 September which is already in his diary.

Mr Mustard will leave it to Mrs Angry to remind Mr Mustard what the deal was with Capita about refurbishing this building which currently can only be used as office space although the freeholder could change that restriction.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 11 July 2014

Mr Mustard tweeted about this live from the meeting but one thing that Richard Cornelius, the "leader" of the council, said about getting out of the lease for NLBP was that "unless you make a concerted effort to meet a break clause date, you miss it" and Mr Mustard merely contrasts his stated view with his many blandishments as to how safe we were to enter into the two big contracts with Capita because they contained break clauses.

1 comment:

  1. I have always thought it to be one of the ultimate ironies that the Planning Dept should be housed in the ugliest and most inappropriate building in the Borough of Barnet!


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.