Bid to stop demolition of Beaufort Park

JPP Land and Hodge Developments want to bulldoze £18 million Beaufort Park at Crowthorne, a high-spec 50,000 sq ft office scheme built on the site of the former Met Office, to make way for a mix of 68 homes.

Now the proposed occupier, a key industry body in the property sector, BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association), which wants to move from its current base close to the twin bridges roundabout, has made a last-ditch bid to save the building which, it says, reflects its ambitions for energy-efficient construction and carbon reduction.

Bracknell Forest Council’s (BFC) planning committee will decide its fate on Thursday, April 19, when BSRIA’s formal objection will be heard but the council’s officers’ recommendation is to approve demolition and allow the plan for new homes. Non-profit organisation, BSRIA, employs 165 staff, many of them global experts. It wants to take the entire building to allow for the growth of its operation which it wants to keep local.

Beaufort Park, set in eight acres within 56 acres of protected heathland, is promoted on its own website as a ‘prime Grade A, low carbon, eco-friendly, secure building incorporating in excess of 20 per cent renewable energy technology’. It has a BREEAM rating of very good.

It was completed in 2009 but no occupier was ever found for it. But the building has long been in the sights of BSRIA’s property consultants, Hicks Baker, which saw it as the perfect match for BSRIA’s low carbon ethos.

A change in the planning designation for BSRIA’s current site in Old Bracknell Lane West has enabled it to sell that site for housing. That, in turn, enabled BSRIA to move – only to find Beaufort Park now up for demolition.

Only last month Bracknell Forest Council asked property experts at the First Tuesday Club to come forward with sites for employment land because the council was short of it.

Stephen Head, director at Hicks Baker, said: “The landlords at Beaufort Park have been unlucky in the office market; the development was unfortunately completed just as the last economic recession started to bite and they have been very close to finding an occupier on several occasions.

“However it would be a real shame if such an excellent low energy modern building was now to be demolished, particularly given its potential suitability as a new home for BSRIA”.

“It was recently announced that Bracknell Forest Council are enacting an Article 4 Direction to reduce the loss of employment space in the borough and are encouraging land owners to put forward sites for employment use.  So far, only residential sites have been suggested.

“However, this is an opportunity for BSRIA to move to a new HQ, to protect employment and to support that council direction. In summary, a win-win situation for both Bracknell and BSRIA.”

Julia Evans, BSRIA chief executive, said the organisation had been in Bracknell for 60 years and planned to stay for another 60.

She added: “Relocation to Beaufort Park will enable BSRIA to continue to grow its existing activities and to develop its training scheme and research and testing activities.

“The company also plans to create an incubator operation to support entrepreneurs entering the engineering world within the built environment. Furthermore, such a move will attract talent and allow BSRIA to develop tomorrow’s leaders.

“BSRIA is committed to finding a building that will deliver a high level of energy efficiency and has the potential to move the company towards carbon neutrality without any offset. This will create an energy efficient centre of excellence that protects and grows employment.”

Bracknell Forest Council declined to comment.

Article originally published on ThamesTap