Malaysian billionaire Ananda Krishnan must be going up the wall.

Peter Bill

Six years after paying the Eyre Estate £250m for St John’s Wood Barracks, complete with permission to build 133 homes, a sod has yet to be turned. This summer, all the ducks appeared to be in a row. Not now - but we’ll come to that.

Four of the six years were wasted by the man himself. Plans for Eyre drawn up by architect John McAslan + Partners were torn up. Project managers came and went. Eventually, new architect Squire and Partners drew up elegant designs for 163 units, approved in April 2015 by Westminster council.

In 2016, out went Boris, in came Sadiq Khan and up went affordable housing demands. Project manager Craigewan, led by former Grosvenor man Ian Morrison, huddled with Squire and Partners, job architect EPR and planner DP9. The plans included 100 affordable flats: 59 on site and 41 at Sentinel House, a clapped-out block on Old Marylebone Road.

St Johns Wood Barracks

The (latest) vision for St John’s Wood Barracks

In July 2017, Lendlease was appointed main contractor. In August, permission was granted - permission that included the caveat that “unless and until” the flats at Sentinel House “are made ready for occupation”, not a flat can be sold at what is now called St John’s Wood Square.

Open dialogue

You’ve guessed. A legal tangle with an adjoining owner to Sentinel House is holding up the entire £1.5bn project.

Staff fear Krishnan will blow a gasket and put the project on hold. A spokesman reassures: “We maintain an open and constructive dialogue with all local stakeholders in both St John’s Wood and in the locality of Sentinel House such that when development commences, it can do so seamlessly. St John’s Wood Square Ltd is committed to delivering a world-class residential community together with the fulfilment of its affordable housing obligations, which are to deliver 100 units.”

Ananda Krishnan

Ananda Krishnan - Source: Flickr/Thomas Hawk/Creative Commons

Back in 2011, when Cluttons was prepping the sale of St John’s Wood Barracks for the Eyre family, the Ministry of Defence was prepping the press for the sale of Hyde Park Barracks. The 1970 scheme, designed by Sir Basil Spence, contains one 308 ft-tall accommodation tower and stabling for 273 horses.

The 3.5-acre super-prime wedge has a 450-yard frontage on the park. Got to be worth £300m to £500m, easy. Maybe. Who knows? Six years on, there is still no news of a sale. But there is news of interest.

An MoD spokesman told me in January 2011 that “no plans [to sell] exist”. He then added, with startling frankness: “But things are happening in darkened rooms. What we are looking for is for someone to come up with a plan and make some kind of offer.”

Nobody did. Eighteen months later, in June 2012, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) formally invited offers via CBRE. But there was a catch. The winning bidder would have to find a spot within 4km to accommodate the 500 members of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and their steeds.

Word is the generals may have secured a victory and will be allowed half the strip

In January 2013, CBRE admitted “our client has not made any decisions regarding whether or not this project will go forward”, promising an answer by spring 2014. More than two years of silence followed. In autumn 2016, GVA popped up, promising to “unblock the logjam”.

Project Rose flowered into life in January, with talk of launching a sale “by the end of this year”. Word is that the generals may have secured a victory and will be allowed to keep the cavalry and their horses on roughly half the strip, leaving just enough space for tall towers that the uber-rich can justify a lower price tag for and which the weary Treasury will accept.

Can this be true? The tale was put to the MoD. Answer: “We are currently conducting detailed assessment studies to determine the best way forward. No decisions have yet been taken on future arrangements.” Sounds like a yes.

A brand that sticks

The Strutt & Parker-isation of BNP Paribas Real Estate completed this month with the announcement that seven of the 11-strong board running the merged real estate advisory business are former habitués of Hill Street, S&P’s Mayfair HQ. The admirable and intelligent chair of the UK board is S&P’s former boss, Andy Martin.

Strut Parker BNP Paribas sale

Andy Martin (left) is now the top man after John Slade left BNP Paribas RE after the Strutts takeover

That much was known. Now his men have secured the top jobs in commercial (Damian Cronk), residential development and planning (Simon Kibblewhite), valuation (Stephen Wolfe), rural (James Farrell) and residential agency (Guy Robinson). Not comforting news to those who began work at what was, long ago, Weatherall Green & Smith.

The S&P brand will continue to adorn estate agency and rural divisions. A wise idea. But Weatherall types can bind their wounds with the news that S&P has just become Coban 2017 - Coban being the name of a self-adhesive bandage manufactured by 3M.

Peter Bill is a journalist and author of Planet Property