HS2 and the great £4bn property bonanza
Lendlease will be given first option to buy the entire 54-acre site
01 March, 2018 — By Tom Foot
How Euston could look
A HUGE portfolio of land worth an estimated £4billion will be sold to a private developer after HS2 construction work finishes, officials confirmed to the New Journal this week.
Lendlease, an international property firm, will be given first option to buy the entire 54-acre site above and around the new Euston high-speed railway terminus, when the two phases of development are completed in 2026 and 2033.
HS2 Ltd, the company managing the deal on behalf of the Department for Transport and Network Rail, announced Lendlease would be its “master development planner” for Euston this week. Details of the deal mean the firm will oversee what is built above and around the new HS2 terminus. But also – in terms of a contract agreed behind closed doors in April last year, and so far unannounced to the public – the company will be offered first chance to buy its finished project.
A HS2 spokesman said: “Land has not been sold to Lendlease yet and we will only sell if we are happy with the proposed development. They have first right to buy, but no guarantee that we will sell.”
HS2 chairman David Higgins was first to announce a major expansion of plans to develop Euston at a 2014 press conference in Manchester – days after taking up his position. That has led to dozens of homes and buildings recently being compulsorily purchased and boarded up – including the popular Bree Louise pub and several hotels – and dozens of mature trees being axed. Sir David – a former managing director and chief executive of Lendlease – announced he would be leaving his £242,000-a-year-for-a-three-day-week post this week.
Sir David Higgins
The HS2 railway to Birmingham, and other northern cities, was originally conceived by Lord Andrew Adonis, the Baron of Camden Town who has said he dreamt up the scheme while soaking in the bath in 2009. He has for the past three years sat on the HS2 board as a non-executive director, earning a £950-a-day contract.
The development at Euston was first announced by former Tory chancellor George Osborne, who called for a “really, really big development” in 2014 in a front-page article in the Evening Standard, which he now edits. It was at this stage that the prospect of “a major above-station development” was first proposed by HS2. Lendlease is the company that Haringey Council was proposing to link up with in a “development vehicle” to take forward a controversial £2billion regeneration of public land. It is behind a proposed huge development of land in Regis Road, Kentish Town.
The firm beat King’s Cross developer Argent, Canary Wharf and US property giant MTR to win the Euston contract in what HS2 describes as an “anonymised” bidding process.
Robert Latham, chairman of Euston Area HS2 Action Group, said: “There has been no input from the community in the selection process. The contract was awarded on price – namely the percentage of profit the MDP [master development planner] sought to make on respectively residential and office development. It was not based on who had the most imaginative plans for Euston or their commitment to the Euston Area Plan.”
HS2 in its announcement this week estimates that 4,000 homes could be built on the Euston site but, despite the entire project being approved by Parliament last year, there are no clear design proposals or details about the kind of housing or scale of office blocks.
Sketchy, two-dimensional drawings appeared on the HS2 website this week showing where blocks could be built. HS2 stresses that whatever its master planner Lendlease comes up with, Camden Council and the Mayor of London’s planning department will have a say.
Its chief executive, Mark Thurston, said: “The arrival of HS2 gives us a unique opportunity to transform the wider Euston station site, opening up the station to the surrounding community with new streets and public realm as well as opportunities to unlock thousands of new jobs and homes, anchored around a common masterplan vision.”
A statement from the Department for Transport confirmed that Lendlease would “take forward opportunities for sustainable, mixed-use development once station construction is complete”. Lendlease chief executive Dan Labbad added: “We believe this is a fantastic project in a key area of London which will provide opportunity for all and act as a catalyst for wider UK growth.”