Empress State Building on Lillie Road to Become 'Counter-Terror Hub'

After sale by Capco to Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime is completed

The 31 storey Empress State Building on Lillie Road is to become a central counter-terrorism and organised crime hub for London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the Metropolitan Police Service announced the plans after Earls Court developer Capital & Counties, or Capco, completed the sale of building to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime for £250 million.

MOPAC already occupies the 31 storey landmark building, but the lease was due to expire in June 2019.

Now however, it is to be upgraded to make the building and associated sites fully secure and fit for purpose as part of a total investment of £412 million.

The Mayor and Met Police's joint announcement says that for the first time, it will bring together the Met’s counter-terrorism command and specialist crime and operations under one roof, in line with other cities like Manchester and Birmingham.

The move to focus on a single site, and dispose of other buildings, will also save on rent, freeing up more money to support front line policing.

London’s new counter-terrorism hub will streamline operations and capabilities, and ensure more effective and efficient working to keep the capital as safe as possible from the constant and evolving threat of terrorism.

The Met Police add that buying the freehold offers better value for money than alternative options including signing another 15 year lease.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Keeping Londoners safe is my first priority, and that means ensuring the capital is as protected as possible from the threat of terrorism and organised crime.

"Last year, our city was subjected to four terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green. We know that countless more have been thwarted by our hardworking and dedicated counter terrorism officers, whose heroism in these times of adversity we must never take for granted. At a time when policing budgets continue to be cut by Government, it is right that we prioritise investment in those areas that matter most.

"The fact is, terrorism and serious organised crime continues to pose a real and ever present threat in our city, and it is imperative that we give our police officers the tools they need to help keep us safe. This new counter-terror and organised crime hub for the capital will ensure that London is brought into line with rest of country whilst being best value for money.

"It will bring our expertise and capabilities together in one place, so they can work more efficiently and effectively to ensure our city is as protected as possible."

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Cressida Dick, said: “Last year’s attacks were absolutely appalling. As we continue to try to do everything we can to prevent such events we must take every opportunity to develop our services in a cost effective manner.

"The new hub will allow us to continue to improve our abilities to confront the significant and ever changing terrorist threat as well as to deal even more effectively with organised crime, cyber crime and other serious crimes.

"This development will undoubtedly support our hard pressed officers and staff and will ultimately help make London safer."

After buying the building in 2013, Capco gained planning permission a year later to convert it to 340 flats as part of the vast Earls Court development. This week, the company said the disposal enables it to realise significant cash proceeds which will be used for general corporate purposes including investment in Capco’s central London estates.

Ian Hawksworth, Chief Executive of Capco said: "We are pleased to announce the sale of the Empress State Building in line with our strategy of realising value at Earls Court over time. The sale enables Capco, as a strategic long-term investor in London, to support The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in achieving its objectives and to continue our strong working relationship with the GLA."

The sale has taken place after it was revealed the overall value of the Earl’s Court scheme dropped in 2017 from £1.14bn to £989m due to "economic and political uncertainty".

This means the future of the entire Earls Court project is now far from certain. Sales at its first phase, Lillie Square in Seagrave Road remain slow and on Lillie Bridge, a number of shops and restaurants which were due for demolition along with adjoining Empress Place were instead reopened as part of a large temporary venue called The Prince.

In January, H&F Council called Capco's plans for another key part of the Earls Court development, West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates 'undeliverable' and demanded that instead of their redeveopment, the estates be returned to council control.

Residents of the estates have been campaigning against demolition of their homes to make way for luxury flats since plans were revealed almost ten years ago.

At the time of the council's announcement, Jonathan Rosenberg, community organiser for West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, said: "Residents are fed up with being kicked around in this high-stakes game of property speculation.

"Capco wants to exit the scheme, but there’s no way anyone will buy it so long as our estates and campaign are part of the package.

"The best way for them to de-risk the redevelopment is to hand back the estates."

March 30, 2018