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Nine Elms News and Property Law Update

Nine Elms and Vauxhall aerial image from LMP Law - Leasehold Law specialists

The massive property and urban development that is Nine Elms comes with some interesting leasehold stories, construction and architectural fascinations and constant news updates. The team and I are always engrossed by new residential (& commercial!) developments, and of course we work with many property management firms, surveyors and construction companies so our eyes are always peeled for news worthy stories, to learn from and to share with our wider community.

Nine Elms is so vast there are so many construction firms involved, and each area is catered for by different development giants such as the Battersea Power Station Development Company; the Berkeley Group looking after sites such as River Light and Vista; the Thames Tideway Tunnel being developed by Tideway; and of course the Ballymore Group in charge of the stunning Embassy Gardens.

Nine Elms includes the new US Embassy (at a staggering cost of $1 billion, which was funded entirely from proceeds of the sale from other U.S. government property in London), multiple buildings designed with sustainability in mind, as well cafés, restaurants and the much gawped at Sky Pool – the outdoor swimming pool bridged between two towers 35 metres high.

For or against such huge regeneration projects such as Nine Elms within Wandsworth’s area, no-one can say that it hasn’t been incredible for local job creation and a viable place to live in a once unused marshland. It’s just taking a very long time to complete, with investment problems, developer struggles, shared ownership queries and never-ending leasehold discussions that dovetail with ground rent and service charges.

Nine Elms Residential Property Statistics 

Here’s quick SNAPSHOT of statistics:

  • 20,000 new homes
  • 4,000 affordable homes
  • 5 million square feet of employment space plus a tube link to Battersea for the very first time.
  • Construction jobs – 20,000 jobs
  • 25,000 permanent jobs available to local people

On Wandsworth’s website they say:

  • 116 affordable units at Riverlight will be available from autumn 2022
  • 60 affordable homes are currently being built at Battersea Exchange and will be available for low-cost rent and sale
  • 374 affordable homes which have just been secured on Sleaford Street, as part of the Battersea Power Station redevelopment

Property Residents’ News at Nine Elms 

It’s such a vast area with so many people experiencing the development, but there are some varying stories regarding tenants or lack of them!  Here’s our takeaway:

All that Glitters is not Gold

Whilst we don’t know if the gentleman in this story is a rental tenant or a private leaseholder at the Nine Elms, there’s definitely the “supposed” wealth that comes with living in this London postcode.

Jonathan Allard allegedly scammed investors out of £2.8 million and when they saw he lived at the exclusive Nine Elms they possibly concluded he knew what he was doing to be living such an affluent lifestyle.  The CPS had evidence that large sums of money invested in Zurich Private Capital were transferred into bank accounts controlled or used by Mr Allard.

A total con-artist, he was in Westminster Magistrates’ Court up for:

  • two counts of fraud
  • money laundering
  • four counts of possessing articles for use in a fraud
  • making a false insurance claim to Ascot Underwriting Limited under his high-net-worth household policy

 

He pleaded not guilty, so I am interested to watch his trial at Crown Court from 23 February! Clearly nothing to do with leasehold but it’s horrible to read scams such as this isn’t it.

Shared Ownership in Nine Elms

The building Mr Allard occupies (and I honestly don’t know whether he’s in a shared ownership, owns a flat or is in private rental) but this kind of property I mention here, is an offer for what the Shared Ownership entails in this development. Getting a foot on the property ladder is tough, and shared ownership has its pros and cons.

A flat is up for sale with the address of 79, 6 Riverlight Quay, and it’s on the market for 80% share at £480,000. It’s a one bedroom, fourth floor flat in Riverlight Quay development. Lease is a Lease Term: 117 Years (from 2016), and the service charges per month are estimated to be £259. From a leaseholder’s point of view, they might think that on a new build why isn’t the lease 999 years….

What is Shared Ownership?

Shared Ownership is a more affordable way to buy a home.  You want the home, you take out a mortgage on a percentage of property (e.g., 50%) and you pay the remaining share directly to the landlord, often a developer or housing provider.

Shared Ownership properties are always Leasehold.

Shared Ownership leases normally include:

  • the ability to buy further shares in the property over time (a process known as ‘staircasing’);
  • the shared owner taking on full responsibility for certain property costs;
  • and restrictions on the way in which the property can be used and resold.

Arguments for Shared Ownership are often that the lease term is never 999 years, which leads people to think that the only reason it’s for a short term, is because of the fees to extend the lease.

Ground rent is often a big conversation too, so added to the services charges, it really is important for housing associations or private landlords and their estate agents to fully explain to their buyers that the Lease they are going to sign is read thoroughly AND understood.

On a cheerier note, this headline under the next section made me laugh:

Best Nine Elms Headline

Finding buyers for Nine Elms is no joke even though the Evening Standard have a corker of a headline:

Nightmare on Nine Elms

Got to love a journalist’s heading!

This news story was hinting that developers couldn’t sell 75% of their apartments (back in November 2021 it looked like 200 of the 300 luxury apartments were going to be sitting empty).  The article was specific to Thames City – the complex built by developers R&F, and is conveniently located next to the US Embassy, the new Apple offices and oh that Sky Pool!  There doesn’t seem to be much official confirmation about what’s been sold or not, but rents will soar once the new Northern Line expands.

The Twitter thread is a see saw of passionate feelings:

“This hideous development should never have received planning permission”…to “Walking around the area it does feel rather overdeveloped, likewise when you reach the old Battersea Power Station. The ‘sky pool’ is very cool though… but it should be open to the public!”, and this painful accusation of “Money laundering is one of those concepts like “legal tender” – people think they know what they’re talking about but they don’t”.

In the publication Construction News this week, the story that the Chinese developer R&F faced liquidity challenges over the next 12 months was a worrying topic. The reality is that it does need to fill its space because this is its remit on just ONE of the locations:

 

One Nine Elms

Main contractor: Multiplex

Value: £900m

Planned completion: late 2022

Current state: most work on pause

 

In 2019, work was paused when R&F failed to pay Multiplex a bond worth £15m. The technology and construction court ruled that was enough reason for Multiplex to suspend site work.

In other news, an overseas’ boutique real estate agency, Vogue Properties, has announced it is the exclusive international representative of London’s prestigious Berkeley Group’s latest property in Nine Elms, “Upper Park Residences”.

An explosion of high-end apartments in London, with cafes, shops and close proximity to office buildings and an easy network rail was always going to pique interest in overseas property investors, so let’s see what happens!

Regeneration is always and has always been a huge topic of debate, that’s for sure.

 

Nine Elms History

There’s no getting away from the tragedy of leaseholders in locations that are affected by dangerous cladding and the outpouring of anger on Twitter from unhappy leaseholders who feel are constantly being overshadowed by various commercial entities or the affluent if visceral. London residents are split, but there are a lot of angry leaseholders. It’s such an important job of any block or property manager to not only maintain properties, but ensure all their leaseholders are listened to. It’s a practical job as well as a humanitarian one, and it’s been especially hard throughout the Pandemic.

In November 2021, Labour councillor Simon Hogg at the Wandsworth Council meeting, voted against the council’s local plan due to the lack of “genuinely affordable homes”.  He then dubbed the Nine Elms project, “Dubai-on-Thames”.

Leader of Wandsworth Council Cllr Ravi Govindia CBE said:

“Until fairly recently Nine Elms was the warehouse for central London, and now it’s well on the way to becoming a digital powerhouse, as well as home to thousands of people.”

In 1976 Wandsworth Council adopted a policy of ‘controlling and encouraging the use of the land at Nine Elms’ for housing and jobs, arguing that without taking action ‘the large areas of vacant land will continue to lie idle.’

 

Nine Elms, Urban Regeneration and Leasehold Law

There is always going to be arguments for and against huge developments of urban living, whether it was the Kings Cross regeneration a few decades ago, the new Derby City Centre Masterplan (forecasted to complete in 2030), Birmingham’s redevelopment of New Street Station and Grand Central, which has created a new gateway for the city, and its new Midlands Metro Expansion, we are a nation requiring new homes, schools, jobs and a better infrastructure, whilst keeping an eye on sustainable development overall.

The Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 link HERE is up to date, as are we with all leasehold law knowledge to guide and support you.

Oh, and just a quickie, for those who might be interested, Nine Elms derives its name from a row of trees that once bordered the main road!

 

I hope you found this article interesting, do drop me or the team a line if you’d like a chat about property management, ground rent or general leasehold law.

 

Laura

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