Architects to help Royal Mail sell-off
Leading practices join four-year framework to help build value of assets
More than a dozen of Britain’s leading architects have been appointed to a framework drawn up by the Royal Mail to help it raise hundreds of millions of pounds by selling off its prime real estate.
In an initiative shrouded in secrecy, BD has learned that the cash-strapped national postal service has asked 13 firms, including Rogers Stirk Harbour, Foreign Office Architects, Allies & Morrison, Make and Farrells, to work up outline schemes costing between £5 million and £400 million for its sites in order to secure the best possible price.
The Royal Mail sits on a huge property land bank but does not know the total value. It hopes the framework will help put a figure on the assets.
News of the deal emerged this week as thousands of postal workers prepared to go on strike in a dispute over pay and modernisation. Strike organiser the Communication Workers Union leapt on the latest revelation.
“The Royal Mail appears to be selling the family silver in a short-term attempt to raise cash,” a spokeswoman said.
“We’re worried that flogging off workplaces will affect the company’s ability to carry out its business.”
The architects on the framework have been asked to sign confidentiality agreements. However, one said the initiative was open ended.
“At the moment, [Royal Mail] don’t know what they’re going to get rid of,” the source said. “When they do, the idea is that we will give them an idea of what a site will be worth. We will draw up outline plans and get planning for them.”
The Royal Mail initially advertised the deal in the Ojeu in April, saying it wanted to establish a framework “to review opportunities for maximising the value” of prime town centre sites as part of its business strategy.
“It is anticipated that the services to be provided through the framework will be on a site by site basis and may range from feasibility studies through to securing planning consent as appropriate,” the advert stated.
This week, a Royal Mail spokeswoman confirmed its strategy would include the “possibility of selling off” sites and added: “Royal Mail continues to review and explore options to improve the efficiency of its operations. Royal Mail has a duty to protect and maximise its assets.”
The framework will run for four years with an option to extend it by a further two. It is understood work will be divided into lots depending on the size of project.
The other architects involved are Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Feilden Clegg Bradley, Fletcher Priest, Hamiltons, Kohn Pedersen Fox, RMJM, Urban Initiatives and Wilkinson Eyre.
What’s in the Royal mail portfolio
The government-owned Royal Mail has controversially been selling off regional post offices for years but still owns vast swathes of sites on prime land.
While the company has not fully calculated the total value of these assets, its land holdings include 1,400 delivery offices, 70 mail centres and a small number of post offices.
The Royal Mail first put the industry on notice of what has now emerged in the framework back in 2005, when John McAslan & Partners was appointed to work up plans for a mixed-use scheme at the main London sorting office at Mount Pleasant in Islington.
The appointment was symbolic. If the “jewel in the crown” of the Royal Mail could be redeveloped, then nothing would be off limits.
And with a £10 billion pension deficit holding off the possibility of any part privatisation of the group, “maximising value” of its sites is seen as key.