Stanhope, the developers of the Ruskin Square site alongside East Croydon Station, are to begin work on a second office block with the taxman now seeming likely to take up tenancy in both pieces of real estate.
Sources suggest that HMRC will now take much of the office space in two Ruskin Square offices, as part of the Government scheme to save £100 million a year by axing thousands of tax staff jobs, many of them employed in 170 local offices, which will be closed and re-organised into 13 regional centres.
The HMRC tax supercentre in Croydon could be the first to open, with around 2,800 staff in the shiny Ruskin House block which is expected to open in April 2017.
HMRC will prove a very expedient replacement for Metro Bank at Ruskin Square, after a deal for the rapidly expanding high street bank to move to the site collapsed, leaving no anchor tenant for the £50 million building.
As well as HMRC taking two blocks in Ruskin Square, the Government Property Unit is understood to be considering the development, a partnership between Stanhope and investors Schroders, for re-location of other civil service departments – effectively shifting a slice of Whitehall 11 miles down the A23, to where property prices are much cheaper.
GPU is busily trying to find new accommodation for the Home Office staff working in Lunar House, the current headquarters of UK Visas and Immigration, which each week processes applications from hundreds of refugees and immigrants seeking to enter the country.
Last year, Lunar House and Apollo House, its 1970s office block neighbour on Wellesley Road, were bought for £100 million by Brockton Capital. At the time, it was thought that the blocks had been bought with a view to redevelop as flats – one planning application last year sought to convert Lunar House into more than 900 apartments. But Croydon Council has in the meantime determined that it will not encourage further office-to-resi conversions.
The Home Office lease at the building runs until 2023, but the GPU is known to be looking at alternative sites in Croydon already.
At Ruskin Square, the developers may now be seeking to find a suitable name for the new tax office towers, something with which Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader might be able to assist.
Some have suggested that, six long years after he first promised to bring Government departments to central Croydon but failed to deliver, Tory MP Gavin Barwell should be encouraged to get his mentor, billionaire Lord Cashcroft, the master tax avoider, to come along to Croydon to perform the official opening of the new HMRC superoffice, in the hope that an extra day spent in London by his lordship might impact his non-dom tax status and add a few extra million to the Exchequer.
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