Home Farm sold to Church Of England investment division for £6.35m – CONFIRMED

Farm entrance

Entrance to Home Farm, Mellow Lane East

Home Farm in Hayes End sold for £6.35m to the Church of England (CoE)’s investment arm in September 2016, Friends of Hayes End has learned.

The organisation, better known as the Church Commissioners for England, has acquired all five Lots that were originally listed for sale back in July 2015, according to The Land Registry.

Lots (two through five), incidentally, contain the majority of the area’s Green Belt land, and are outlined below.

home-farm-land-mapThis means the organisation now own the Home Farm buildings, along with the fields lining Mellow Land East and Charville Lane, including the ones that surround the Heinz site.

In a statement to Friends of Hayes End, a spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said the purchase marks a continuation of the organisation’s long history of rural investments.

“The Church Commissioners have an extensive rural land portfolio, and Home Farm was purchased to become part of that. We are long-standing rural landlords and this is a long-term investment for us,” the spokesperson said.

Lot 1 (outlined in green on the map above) neighbours Paddocks Farm, and contains the 48 acres of green space that surround the Hayes Park Business Centre (AKA Heinz), as well as a couple of out buildings and Hayes Park Cottage.

As stated in the original sales brochure for the site, whoever acquires that Lot must provide “estate services” to the business centre, and assist with the upkeep of the land surrounding it.

Who are the Church Commissioners?

News of Home Farm’s sale first came to light in March 2016, when the estate agents overseeing the purchase confirmed an offer to acquire the site had been accepted.

Until now little has been known about who acquired it and what their plans for the land might be. While Friends of Hayes End has requested further details from The Church Commissioners about its long-term plans for the site, no details were forthcoming at the time of writing.

What we do know is the organisation has a wide and varied investment portfolio, which it draws on to generate income for the CofE. Its property and land investments make up a sizeable portion of its asset base.

The organisation’s 2015 annual report states rural properties, like Home Farm, make up around 9% of its total investment portfolio, which it strives to derive value from in several ways.

According to the report, these include: “Working with farmer tenants to maximise the capital and rental value of the holdings, exploring value-adding opportunities, and completing a number of selected sales across the portfolio.” .

It is worth noting, however, the organisation has been embroiled in a multi-year battle with the residents of Chidswell in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who are desperate to stop the local council pressing ahead with plans to build 1,500 homes on a piece of Green Belt Land owned by the Commissioners.

There is no suggestion at this stage the Church Commissioners have similar plans in mind for the Green Belt contained within the Home Farm site.

However, until we get further confirmation of their plans for the site, it is fair to say the local community will be keeping an even closer eye on their activities from this point on.

At the time of writing, Hillingdon Council is not known to have received any planning applications pertaining to the site, and the Office of Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell are also keeping close tabs on the situation.

What you can do to help

Or, if you want to lend us a hand in some other way, email us: friendsofhayesend@gmail.com

Save Home Farm Green Belt: The Story So Far

In July 2015, a large tract of Green Belt land in Hayes End, Middlesex,  was listed for sale on the property website Rightmove, with a guide price of £5.5m for all 144 of its acres.

The site, known as Home Farm or Hayes Park, consists of fields, woodland, stables, and office buildings, while the bulk of the land is primarily used as grazing land for horses.

For local residents, Home Farm and its surroundings are highly cherished, as they provide them with access to the type of views more commonly found in the Sussex countryside, rather than a bustling West London suburb.

But, in light of the listing on Rightmove, concerns have been rightly raised by residents about the fate of the site once it inevitably falls under new ownership, with many fearful it could pave the way for this sizeable chunk of Green Belt land to be built upon.

Gated entrance to field

Field access, Mellow Lane East

The state of play

Following an abortive attempt to sell the land in late 2015, the site was re-listed in February 2016 for sale, and fresh round of sealed bids sought.

On the back of this, the site has now been listed as “SOLD – SUBJECT TO CONTRACT”

At the time of writing, it is still not known if the site is likely to be sold-off in its entirety, or divided up into five separate lots.

Friends of Hayes End has been in frequent contact with the estate agency overseeing the sale and is awaiting further details of what the new owner has in store for the site.

Either way, no planning permission has been sought to build on it yet either.

However, that hasn’t stopped the local people and businesses of Hayes End, Charville, Park Lane, Kingshill and the surrounding areas pledging their support to fight any attempt to side-step the area’s Green Belt status and build upon it.

As such, news of the threat to Home Farm has taken up column inches in the local press, and has seen residents take part in public demonstrations to show their commitment to the fight.

There have also been public meetings, chaired by Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell, to discuss how, as a community, residents should prepare themselves should planning permission be sought to build on the land in the future.

Following on from this, a further meeting took place on 24 September to discuss what – as a community – our next steps should be to ensure we’re ready should a disagreeable planning application be lodged.

As such, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has pledged to support local efforts to protect the land, and has already added Hayes Park to its map of under threat Green Belt sites within Greater London.

We’re also working closely with local wildlife groups in an attempt to quantify the ecological and environmental risks of losing Hayes Park to development.

Aside from all this, our mission is to make as many people as possible aware of what’s going on, and the long-lasting impact on the local area should the site be developed.

What’s this website all about?

The aim of this site is to provide an up-to-date information hub for local residents, businesses and other stakeholders concerned with safeguarding the future of the local area’s green, open spaces, so check back regularly for updates.

Protect Hillingdon Green Belt is being run by the Friends of Hayes End group, an informal, Facebook-based residents’ association, who also plan to use it as a platform for local residents to voice their support and share details of just why the area means so much to them.

So – if you want to help – feel free to drop us a line at FriendsofHayesEnd@gmail.com

Best wishes,

Your Friends in Hayes End

This article was originally published on 23 August 2015, but was updated on 27 September to acknowledge new developments in the Save Home Farm Campaign.

Hayes Park sale agreed: What now?

The property listing for Hayes Park confirms the site has now been sold, subject to contract.

At the time of writing, it is unclear if it has been sold in whole or as separate lots, but – either way -details should soon start to emerge about what the new owners have planned for the site, and the true nature of the threat this may pose to our area’s green spaces.

While there has been some encouraging news of late around Hillingdon Council’s stance on upholding the Green Belt status of land in some areas of the borough, its decision to allow a school to be built on protected land in Lake Farm is still weighing heavily on the minds of residents. And rightly so.

According to figures published earlier this month, taken from the London Plan Annual Monitoring Report, the number of hectares of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land lost to development within Greater London doubled between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The amount of open space lost in 2014/15 as a result of this is the equivalent of an area the size of 40 football pitches, the figures reveal.

Meanwhile, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) recently published its “The Strongest Protection? report into the threat posed to Green Belt areas within the capital, and featured details of the Save Home Farm photo shoot Friends of Hayes End organised in August 2015.

The report, which is available to download here, moves to rubbish the claim that developing Green Belt sites is the only way to address the growing demand for affordable housing in London, while reinforcing why Green Belt areas are so important to the capital’s future.

Community support

Friends of Hayes End attended the report’s launch, and met with a few other campaigners  embroiled in work to protect under threat tracts of Green Belt within their own local areas.

From speaking to them, one thing that is abundantly clear is – should a planning application be submitted to develop Hayes Park’s Green Belt areas – we will need as many people as possible in the local area to raise an objection with the council.

As part of this, we’re in the throes of contacting local schools – including Abbotsfield, Charville Primary School, Hewens College and Swakeleys –so they can make the parents who send their children there aware of what is going on with the site.

Why is that important? Well, given the sheer number of children who use the roads surrounding the Hayes Park/Home Farm site to walk to school, we think their parents would want to know that these quiet, residential streets could soon be accommodating a huge volume of construction-related traffic.

This not only has road safety implications in the short-term, but – depending on the nature of the development – could also result in a sizeable long-term rise in traffic volumes in the area, and – in turn – air pollution levels.

If you or anyone you know sends their children to these schools or has any other ties with them, and wants to help with communicating the message about the risk to Hayes Park/Home Farm to local parents, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

We also want, wherever possible, to get local businesses involved in our campaign and to help spread the message, and reinforce the fact that preserving Hayes Park is a community-wide concern.

In terms of what form that support would take, we’re simply looking for local business people who would be willing to use their standing in the local community to reinforce the strength of any objections we – as a group – raise with the council if and when a planning application is submitted.

If you run a local business and would be interested in lending your support to the campaign, email us or drop us a line via the Facebook page. Alternatively, if you make regular use of a local business and think they should be getting involved, encourage them to drop us a note too.

To this end, we recently contacted Heinz, United Biscuits and Bio Green Dairy to make them aware of what’s happening right on their doorstep and to ascertain their interest in supporting the campaign to safeguard the area’s green spaces.

At the time of writing, no response had been received, but we will persevere until we receive some form of response – supportive or otherwise – from them.

But why should local businesses care? One of the early standout results of our Hayes Park user site survey is the high number of residents who have expressed an interest in moving out of the area, should Hayes Park be built on. The view and scenery the site offers is what many residents claim brought them to the area in the first place. So, if it goes, so will they, it seems.

Also, getting involved with community-minded projects should reflect well on them, from a public relations perspective.

What you can do to help:

With the sale of the site now – apparently – a done deal, it is time to step-up our campaign to protect Hayes Park’s green spaces the best we can, and you can help by:

Or, if you want to lend us a hand in some other way, email us: friendsofhayesend@gmail.com

Use it or lose it: Evidence highlights risk to Hayes Park’s Green Belt status

After five months of patiently waiting to see who bought Home Farm/Hayes Park and what their plans for the site would be, an eagle-eyed local resident contacted Friends of Hayes End to say the land had been curiously relisted on property website RightMove as for sale.

While the listing’s contents – in terms of property particulars – remains largely the same, the guide price for the land has been raised from £5.5m to £6.03m, and a new round of sealed bids for the site have now been sought.

As before, the site is available to buy in full or in parts, having been already divided up into five separate lots. Interested parties had until 17 February to submit a bid for all or part of the land.

Friend of Hayes End contacted Bidwells, the estate agency overseeing the sale, on 25 February to find out why the first round of sealed bids – which were submitted in September 2015 – failed to result in the land being sold.

The rise in guide price was also queried during this exchange, but a Bidwells spokesperson said the company would be unable to comment on anything to do with the sale of Home Farm at this time due to “confidentiality commitments.”

In light of that, one can only speculate about the reasons for the relisting. However, given the land’s previous owner went out of business (and its sale is being pushed through by an insolvency firm) it is fair to assume their interest lies in raising as much money as they can from selling it.

Incidentally, Friends of Hayes End also made several attempts last week to contact the aforementioned insolvency firm about the Home Farm case but had not received a  response at the time of writing.

Watching and waiting

While we wait (again) to see what the outcome of the sealed bids process is, Friends of Hayes End has been doing some investigating into the various planning issues prospective buyers could run into should they make a play to develop the site’s Green Belt areas.

According to Hillingdon Council’s planning strategy documents, new developments on Green Belt and Green Chain land (which is what Home Farm is specifically designated as) will be “firmly resisted” unless they add value from a scenic, conservation or recreational point of view to the local area.

The council also has to abide by national and London-centric frameworks when ruling on planning matters, which can grant permission for Green Belt to be built on if the development meets certain criteria.

As such the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework states developments that boost the recreational appeal, the agricultural use of the land or provide limited amounts of affordable housing are not considered “inappropriate” use of Green Belt.

Furthermore, permission can also be granted to redevelop existing buildings within Green Belt land, providing the alterations do not drastically alter the size of the property.

If, however, a proposed development does not fall under any of these criteria, a prospective buyer has the option to engage the “very special circumstances test”.

As part of this, they would need to prove the benefits of building on the land outweigh the disadvantages the community would experience by losing access to it.

Time for action

Worringly, a planning advisory document seen by Friends of Hayes End and issued to prospective buyers, suggests bidders are being encouraged to consider challenging whether or not Home Farm should be considered Green Chain any more with local planners.

“The majority of the land continues to be inaccessible to the general public and thus can reasonably be said to be not fulfilling its designated Green Chain status,” the document reads.

“A development proposal has the potential to directly address these deficiencies and the council has already accepted a very special circumstances argument [elsewhere in the borough] predicated on an identified need for additional schools to meet the increasing pressures of a fast-growing population.”

While on paper (thanks in no small part to the removal of several access points into Hayes Park in recent years) it may appear the site is not used widely from a recreational point of view. Anecdotally, there is much evidence to suggest that it is.

For instance, from local dog walkers, ramblers, conservationists, and others, but we need evidence to back this up.

So, we’re calling on everyone in the local area to fill in our survey, which is designed to gauge how widely used and highly valued Home Farm/Hayes Park is by the local community.

And, on top of that, we’ll also be taking steps to find out how else the local community can start exercising their right to roam on the site because – as the old saying goes – if you don’t use, you’ll lose it.

Hayes Park Green Belt: What’s at stake

OPINION: A lot of the opposition to the decision to sell-off Home Farm/Hayes Park has focused on the open space and luscious greenery local residents stand to lose if the site is developed on, rather than what they stand to gain.

While no planning permission has been sought (outline or otherwise) for the site so far, it’s fair to assume that – in light of rising property prices in the area –prospective buyers have been eyeing up the site for it residential development potential.

And, if that turns out to be the case, what local residents will almost certainly experience is a long, protracted period of chaos and congestion along the roads serving the site during the construction phase.

Pole Hill Road and Charville Lane, for example, are both well-used thoroughfares that become almost impassable at times already, thanks to the high throughput of traffic they already receive.

Add to the mix the procession of tipper trucks and JCBs a new residential development is likely to bring, and the result will be numerous traffic jams and fits of road rage, as travelling around the local area becomes nigh on impossible.

It’s also worth mentioning the damage a potential uptick in traffic volume would undoubtedly do to the surfaces of our roads, and – in turn – the vehicles that use them.

In the longer term, these potential traffic problems would most certainly worsen once any plans to develop the site are complete, and a new influx of residents move in, bringing more cars with them.

If the problems became too bad, it could prompt the council (and this is purely speculative now) to rethink the road system in the area, and take steps to increase the volume of traffic they could comfortably withstand, paving the way (no pun intended) for further construction work and disruption.

All of this together would completely change the look and feel of the area forever, transforming this once quiet corner of Hillingdon countryside into a concrete maze, heaving with traffic that spits out pollution into the once clean air.

Then there’s the impact a sudden influx of people would have on the rest of the area’s amenities. A new residential development would put additional pressure on the area’s schools, Hillingdon Hospital, our local GP surgeries, dentists, and more.

Admittedly, it is a pretty bleak picture we’ve painted here, and we make no apologies for that, because we fully appreciate how much Hayes Park means to residents and how losing it would irreversibly change the character of the area and damage the community forever.

The number of people who’ve contacted Friends of Hayes End to remark on how they moved to this part of the borough specifically because of the views, grew up running amok in the fields or spent their summers helping out a Dalton’s Farm, are a testament to that.

We’ve even had people who’ve long since moved out of the area get in touch, sharing their memories about watching the horses (that are still very much part of what makes Hayes End great) and their riders trot along the frosty lane on Christmas Day, offering to help fight the threat to Hayes Park and Home Farm in any way they can.

This area means so much to so many people, and we’ll be damned if we let it go without a fight. If that means more protests, so be it. If that means pasting more of the local area with posters, fine. If it means not losing what makes this such a great place to live, that’s what we’re going to do. Bring it on.

The Save Home Farm campaign wins support of nationwide environmental protection charity

The threat posed to Home Farm’s Green Belt Land has caught the attention of The Campaign to Protect Rural England, who has pledged to support local resident-led efforts to safeguard the site from development.

The environmental charity’s London branch has added the Home Farm site to its map of at-risk Green Belt sites within the M25, and has agreed to assist the Hayes End community in any future planning disputes that may arise from the forthcoming sale of the land.

As previously reported by Friends of Hayes End, the 144-acre Home Farm/Hayes Park site was recently listed on property website RightMove with a guide price of £5.5m.

Viewings of the site by prospective buyers were concluded this week (8 September), while Bidwells – the property consultancy overseeing the sale – has confirmed interested parties until 24 September to submit their bids for it.

At the time of writing, no planning applications concerning the site are understood to have been submitted to Hillingdon Council, but the uncertainty over the land’s future has been the subject of growing concern within the local community.

Since news of the land sale emerged, the plight of Home Farm has been featured in the local press on several occasions, and has been the subject of an extensive poster campaign across the local area, as well as a peaceful demonstration.

Securing the support of the CPRE constitutes a major win for the local community’s efforts, as the organisation has been actively involved in drawing attention to similar campaigns at both a local and central government level in the past and at present.

wpid-wp-1441870318734.jpeg

For example, CPRE is currently lending support to the Keep Osterley Green campaign in Hounslow, West London, by submitting objections to a planning application that could see a free school built on Green Belt land known locally as White Lodge.

It has also thrown its weight behind the Save Oakfield Site campaign in Redbridge, after the local council made moves to sell-off the area’s playing fields, which were granted Green Belt status in the 1930s.

Alice Roberts, green spaces officer at CPRE London, said there are many misconceptions about the protections afforded to the UK’s Green Belt land by the government’s planning policies.

“Most people believe that Green Belt land is protected, but [our] research shows that politicians are allowing land which is much loved and well-used to come under threat from development. Astonishingly, this includes playing fields, recreation grounds and even local parkland,” said Roberts.

“Local campaigners are battling to save these spaces and we think it’s time their local councillors, our Mayor and our MPs take action.

“We want them to stop just saying that they want to preserve the Green Belt and actually take action to halt these threats,” she added.

The Save Home Farm campaign has support at local government level from John McDonnell MP, who has previously overseen efforts to safeguard Home Farm from development, and is currently serving as a member of parliament for Hayes and Harlington.

“We know that the vast majority of Londoners oppose building on Green Belt land, so we’re asking people to support these local campaigns,” continued Roberts.

“People can also write to local MPs and councillors, and the Mayor, to ask them to halt the threats to Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in London right now.”

Home Farm Green Belt: How at risk is it from development?

In years gone by, the protection afforded to areas designated as Green Belt land has visibly diminished, as the demand for affordable housing and civic amenities for the UK’s booming population has grown.

Figures released by construction consultancy Glenigan in June 2015 bear this out, and revealed a 430% rise in planning application approvals for developments on Green Belt land over the past five years.

The reasons for this aren’t difficult to fathom and can largely be traced back to the Coalition Government’s decision to push through new planning regulations in 2012 that – essentially – relaxed the rules on developing Green Belt land.

The upturn in the UK economy has also played a part, as property developers look to tap into the demand for new housing stock that people who struggled to get a foot on the property ladder during the recession are now driving.

But that’s only part of the story. The previous government also actively encouraged local councils to prioritise the reuse of Brownfield sites over building on Green Belt land.

It’s this policy, in particular, that has paved the way for much of the residential redevelopment going on in Hayes Town at the moment, for example, in anticipation of the arrival of Crossrail in 2018-19.

The completion of the high-frequency trainline is widely-tipped to prompt a rise in house prices within Hayes and the surrounding area, as it delivers on its goal to make it easier and quicker for people to travel into Central London.

If the expected impact on property prices turns out to be true, the demand for new housing in the area is likely to follow, which could – theoretically – put more pressure on the council to permit development on Green Belt sites like Hayes Farm.

And it’s for all these reasons local residents are so concerned about the fate of Home Farm and its open spaces once the 144-acre stretch of Green Belt land it sits within is sold off.

As it stands, though, no planning permission of any kind has been sought for the land, despite its imminent sale, which makes it difficult at this point to gauge how much of a fight lies ahead.

Even so, there’s no denying the uncertainty over the situation has got local residents worried.

The area has faced similar threats in the past, the most recent one being in 2011, and nothing came of it. But, that was before the relaxation of the planning laws, and at a time when the economy was still largely in the doldrums.

A lot has changed in four years, and just because plans to develop the site failed to win the approval of Hillingdon Council in 2011, it would be foolhardy to assume that would automatically be the case this time around.

One bright spot on the horizon is the contents of Hillingdon Council’s 2013 Green Belt Assessment Update. In it, a large portion of the Home Farm site was earmarked for retention as Green Belt, on the grounds that its presence will protect this area of Hayes from the effects of “urban sprawl.”

However, as the picture shows, this designation (pictured right) doesn’t appear to cover the entire site that’s up for sale (pictured left), which should be just cause for local concern.

Hayes Farm mapHome Farm