The Bank Block

Originally all the blocks of flats on the Estate were named Avenue Mansions but in the early 1900’s, as the development progressed, the names Marlborough and Buckingham were introduced.  The block of flats at 35-45 Avenue Mansions became known colloquially as the ‘Bank Block’, and this is a short history to explain the origin of that name and what happened to the two flats that were the Bank.

The Headlease of 35-44 Avenue Mansions
By an Indenture dated 6th May 1898 Ernest Owers granted to Edward Jarvis Cave, the builder, a headlease of the block, see plan, for a term of 99 years from 25th March 1897 at the rent of
�250 per annum. Looking at an abstract from an old Land Certificate we can see that back then Mr Cave sold the freehold of the Estate and took back a headlease of each block. In 1934 these headleases were acquired by The London County Freehold and Leasehold Properties Ltd (LCF)

In 1956 Flat 44 was converted into two flats, thus creating number 45.

In 1971 LCF sold the headleases to Metropolitan Property Holdings Ltd.  When BAM Estate (then Capitalbest Ltd) bought the Estate in 1978 for �1,215,000, for this block they acquired only the headlease.  The headlease was subsequently merged with the freehold when BAM Estate bought that in 1983.

The Freehold of 35-45 Avenue Mansions
By an Indenture dated 25th March 1897 the land on which the flats were to be built, see plan attached to Indenture, was sold by Robert Milnes, as trustee of the will of Charles Cannon, to Edward Jarvis Cave.  A Deed dated 19th April 1899 confirms the inclusion of land to the rear of the Cock and Hoop pub which completed the site of 35-45 Avenue Mansions, and the freehold of the block was then sold to Benjamin Cohen in May 1899.  By 1943 the freehold was lodged with National Provincial Bank Ltd as trustee of the Sir Herbert & Lady Cohen Marriage Settlement.  By 1977 the freeholder was The National Westminster Bank Ltd.  In 1978 the freehold was gifted to The Provost and Scholars of The King’s College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas of Cambridge.

BAM Estate realised that their headlease only had a few years left to run so entered into negotiations to buy the freehold and finally completed on the purchase on the 10th October 1983 for �280,000.  Application was then made to the Land Registry to merge the headlease interest with the freehold and that was finally concluded in August 1985.

The Underlease of 35 and 37 Avenue Mansions.  The Bank.
By an Indenture dated 10th December 1901 made between the Earl of Sandwich and William Fladgate, the mortgagees, Richard Chadwick, the mortgagee of the equity of redemption, Elizabeth Anne Cave, wife of Edward Jarvis Cave and the mortgagor, granted to The London and South Western Bank Ltd an underlease of Flats 35 and 37 Avenue Mansions for a term of 50 years from 29th September 1901 at a rent of �220 pounds per annum for the first 7 years, �240 pounds per annum for the second 7 years, and �250 per annum thereafter, for use as a Bank.

Originally the bank manager lived on the premises, as the plans of the ground floor in 1935 and the lower ground floor in 1985 show.  The ground floor plan shows the entrance to the Bank before the frontage was reduced by the widening of Finchley Road in 1968, and the lower ground floor plan also shows the lockers that were subsequently incorporated into the new Flat 35a.

That underlease was surrendered by Barclays Bank Ltd in 1950, and by an underlease LCF granted a new lease to Barclays Bank Ltd for a term of 21 years from 29th September 1950 at �500 per annum.

In 1969 LCF accepted a surrender of the underlease and granted to Barclays Bank a new underlease for a term of 21 years from 29th September 1969 at a rent of �1,625 per annum, subject to review at 7th and 14th years.  BAM Estate agreed a rent increase with Barclays Bank to �10,500 pa in 1983.

The end of the Bank
In December 1989, after nearly 88 years serving the residents on the Estate, Barclays closed the branch.  Their underlease expired in September 1990.  After lengthy negotiations, including Court appearances, in May 1991 BAM Estate reached a settlement with Barclays Bank who paid �212,500 in respect of their dilapidations liability.  Banks were generally shutting local branches then and Building Societies were looking for good retail locations, so a change of use would be needed to maintain the income stream.  The Board considered converting to residential use or to offices and, having taken advice from several agents, it was decided to convert the major part of the premises to offices, whilst the front section of No. 35 would be separated and made into a one bedroom flat.  2,091 sq ft of net lettable office space was created with 1,608 sq ft on the ground floor and 483 sq ft on the lower ground floor, at a cost approximately of �135,000 inclusive of VAT and fees.  The separation and creation of the one bedroom flat to be known as Flat 35 cost approximately �27,000 inclusive of VAT and fees.

In November 1992 BAM Estate granted to Cheri Gonsalves and Penny O’Nions a lease of the new offices for a term of 10 years from 5th November 1992 at �33,000 per annum subject to rent review at the 5th year.

By 1995 the tenants were reporting they were having financial difficulties, and concessionary arrangements were made for them to pay their rent.  At the rent review in 1997 the commercial valuers, Moss Kaye, estimated the rental value of the offices was then only �21,000 pa.  The Estate agreed concessionary rent terms with the tenant whereby over the last four years of the term the rent rose by annual increase from �25,000 to �33,000 for the last year.

In 2001 the tenants confirmed that the introduction of the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ), which allowed them only one business parking permit, meant that running the business from these premises was no longer viable, and accordingly they gave notice they would move out on the expiry of their lease in November 2002.

Again the Board had to decide what to do with the premises.  In order to give the Estate more options when the lease expired, the Board instructed Messrs Fentons, building surveyors, to prepare schemes for conversion to residential.  Several proposals were considered and, following discussions with Camden Council planning officers, a Planning Application was made in December 2001 for conversion of the offices to a 4 bedroom flat on the ground floor and a 3 bedroom flat at lower ground floor which development would include a number of the lockers at the rear.

In the BAM Bulletin of December 2001 it was announced that the tenants would be vacating and that the Estate had put in a planning application for a change of use to 2 flats.  Copies of the plans were then put up on display in the Estate Office.

In Feb 2002 we were informed by the planning officer that, as Cannon Hill/Finchley Road is an area of ‘parking stress’ the Council would not give planning consent unless BAM Estate entered into a Section 106 Planning Obligation which would mean that the occupants of the flats would never be entitled to residents parking permits.  Such an obligation was unacceptable to BAM Estate.  In March the Council formally refused our application.

We approached Savell Bird & Axon, Traffic & Transport consultants, who had advised the Estate in connection with the CPZ.  We also approached two planning consultants and, in April, decided to go with Nathaniel Litchfield who recommended pushing for an informal hearing that would allow us better to expose the shallowness of the planners arguments and the weakness of their resolve in front of the inspector.  Initial discussions with the Camden planners were not helpful, and we pressed ahead with preparing our case.  One main plank of our case was to be the beneficial introduction of the CPZ buffer zone in Heath Drive and Bracknell Gardens, which BAM Estate had negotiated with the Council, and which normally had over 50 empty parking spaces during the day.  By August we had our case together, and lodged our planning appeal.  The Planning Inspectorate set the date of the appeal to be in April 2003.

Our tenants of the offices could not be persuaded to stay, and they vacated in November 2002.  It was apparent that finding an office user who would be happy with only one parking permit would be difficult, and conversion to serviced office units was investigated but felt to be too specialist a use. So we started a detailed survey of the structure to refine our plans for alternative uses, and detailed plans for conversion to residential use were prepared, these plans now incorporating many of the lockers in the basement into the new flat.  These plans went on display in the Estate Office to replace the earlier proposals.  Enabling works for any future redevelopment were commenced, e.g. removing the strongroom door, and rerouting the external gas main and an internal hot water pipe.

By February 2003, officers at Camden Council were unofficially admitting to the Estate Manager that their planning stance was indefensible.  At their suggestion we resubmitted our planning application, and arranged for the appeal to be deferred.  On 7th May 2003 we were granted planning permission for the change of use, with no parking permit restrictions.  A specification for the conversion works promptly went out to tender the same month.

On return of the tenders the Board re-considered all the options.  It was apparent that finding an office tenant would still be difficult.  The Board considered carrying out structural separation works and selling off one or other of the floors to a developer but, having looked at the figures, decided it would be preferable that BAM Estate carry out the conversion works to flats for letting themselves and keep the development profit.

Broadland Construction Ltd, being the lowest tenderer, were awarded the contract to carry out the conversion works and commenced on site at the beginning of August.  The works included breaking out the strongroom walls (allowing daylight in through two windows for the first time in over 100 years!), removing the bank entrance doors and steps on the Finchley Road elevation and rebuilding to match the north west corner, taking out the internal staircase and inserting structural steel to support the upper floor, knocking down 7 lockers and a corridor to create 2 bedrooms and a bathroom to add to Flat 35a, and constructing an entirely new entrance to Flat 35a.  They finished in March 2004.

A report on progress, together with the costs to date, was given in the annual accounts for years ending 2003 and 2004 which were presented to the BAM AGM’s in 2004 and 2005.  The capital elements of the works were shown as additions to Tangible Fixed Assets in the accounts, and would therefore be deductible against tax should either of the flats be sold.

The total cost of the conversion works, including full internal fit out inclusive of kitchen appliances, lights and window blinds, together with all professional fees and miscellaneous costs was �444,000.  The flats were subsequently let at rents totalling in excess of �60,000 per year.