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Following Elmbridge Borough Council's refusal of the 'Prior Approval' application to convert the A C Court offices into 51 flats, RA Chairman, Graham Cooke, has written to the CEO of Columbia Threadneedle Investments (owner of A C Court, through Threadneedle Property Unit Trust ) to request an indication of how the company now intends to proceed. 

Graham's letter is shown below.

UPDATE:  Threadneedle have replied - see their response below Graham's letter.

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From: chairman@residents-association.com

To: nick.ring@columbiathreadneedle.com
Sent: Mon 27 Sep 2021
Subject: Threadneedle Property Unit Trust - A C Court, High Street, Thames Ditton, KT7 0SR


Dear Mr Ring,

I am writing on behalf of residents of Thames Ditton to voice our concern over your trust's recent attempt to gain approval for an ill thought through development which has, we are pleased to see, been rejected by Elmbridge Borough Council. 

We appreciate that the proposal you put forward was based on professional advice, and that conversion of redundant office space to residential may well have merit. What we find odd is that a reputable organisation such as yours should attempt to use the legislative changes brought in by government in the way you have.

A C Court sits in the centre of a sensitive conservation area and we believe that the proper and correct course of action would have been for a full planning application to have been submitted. We have no doubt that a properly thought through scheme would receive approval given the PDRs that exist.

I am intending to publish this email on our website (www.residents-association.com) and am copying this to our local and Surrey Councillors, all of whom represent the TD&WGRA. I have also copied Dominic Raab, our local MP, with whom I met recently to express concerns over planning matters in general, and PDR in particular.

I would be grateful to hear how your organisation intends to proceed in this matter and thank you in advance for an early response. We shall, of course, be happy to publicise your response.

Kind regards.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Cooke
Chair Thames Ditton & Weston Green Residents' Association

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Dear Graham,

Thank you for your email of 27th September which has been passed on to me as Fund Manager of the portfolio in which this property is managed.

As I am sure you are aware, the office market is going through a period of flux at present, with levels of occupational demand currently suppressed due to Brexit, Covid and the increasing trends towards flexible working. These trends have adversely affected A C Court, where there are currently two vacant buildings within the scheme, in spite of both having been fully refurbished, where significant capital has been invested to support the continued vibrancy of the location.

The fund has a duty to its investors to consider all available courses of action to maintain and support value, and therefore sought, on the advice of its professional advisors, to obtain permitted development consent for residential use, which it was entitled to do so under prevailing legislation. Should the permitted development application have been granted, conversion to residential could be achieved on a phased basis taking into account the occupation of other buildings within the scheme.

As responsible investors in real estate, we endeavour to take into consideration the views of many stakeholders, including residents, when making investment decisions. However, as stated above our primary duty of care is to our investors, and we must ensure that the value of their investment is protected.

We note and are grateful for your support in principle to convert the buildings to residential via the established planning process, which is an option which will be given full consideration as we explore the next steps in our asset management business plan.

Kind regards

James Coke
Fund Manager
Co-head of Institutional UK Real Estate


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