Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

On the move

Exactly 30 years ago, the Institute had to leave its old office in Covent Garden and head out to the suburbs. The site chosen for the new office was in a rather rundown corner of southeast London once known as the Surrey Commercial Docks. These had been a series of nine docks, timber ponds and a canal spreading over 460 acres. Most of this was built by the Commercial Docks Company which constructed a fine block of offices that was opened in 1892. The offices continued to be used after all the London docks were merged into the Port of London Authority in 1908.

The docks had concentrated on the timber trade. After 1950, this began to decline and during the 1980s and subsequently, the docks were progressively abandoned. The area became largely derelict; transport links were poor so, when the office in the old Dock Offices was acquired in 1988, it was cheap. But it had potential and the area was transformed when the Jubilee underground line was extended from Waterloo via the area (now renamed Canada Water after an earlier dock) and onto Stratford, site of the Olympic Games.  Most of the docks were filled in and thousands of homes built.

Come 2015 and the area had become a strange mixture of modern high-rise around distinctive stretches of preserved water, a shopping centre, a striking library, a modern station, Victorian offices and substandard 1950s buildings. Access was transformed when the Overground network was linked to Canada Water. In 2016 a massive £2 billion redevelopment was proposed led by British Land. Many of the proposals can be seen at goo.gl/Tx9w4R   

The British Land Company plc is one of the largest property development and investment companies in the UK. It controls 2.2 million sq. metres of property, the largest being Meadowhall, Sheffield.

Negotiations

It was in September 2017 that British Land came calling on the Institute at Number 2, Dock Offices. The first tap was for the Institute’s parking space. A surprisingly high amount was offered for this bit of tarmac. Our street-wise Chief Executive, Dominic Cooper, was naturally suspicious of the sum offered. However, during subsequent negotiations – of which the CIoJ’s Council was kept fully informed – it was revealed that a bigger prize might be on offer for the whole office suite.

Naturally, the Institute sought independent valuations, and after contacting a local commercial property agent it was confirmed that the offer was in excess of the property value at the time.  After receiving that information, the offer was increased following further negotiations.

After considering the price and the options, Council felt the sum of half-a-million pounds finally offered was a fair sum for the leasehold property. This was agreed with British Land.  The offer was conditional upon the Institute vacating the premises by March 31, 2018.

The moving process started with storage accommodation hired and a subcommittee formed to investigate suitable premises for the new headquarters of the Institute. In the meantime, temporary rented accommodation will be used. Postal, telephone and email contacts will remain unchanged. The full range of Institute services will continue, unaffected by the removal from Dock Offices.

As the changing dynamic of the media and communication industry threatens so many journalists, the Institute stands as a pillar of continuity. Its good financial situation (see 2017 accounts) will be further strengthened by the release of the equity in the property. When it moves to a new address, it will only be the fourth permanent location in the Institute’s 135-year history.

Norman Bartlett