The Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has (25 January 2022) completed on a purchase of new premises in Central London that will become a striking new home for the College, serve the needs of the professions and animal-owning public in the years to come, and aim to be a sound financial investment for the future.
Having sold Belgravia House – its Westminster offices since 1995 – to a private investor in March 2021 for £14.5m, RCVS Council agreed the purchase of the new building – at 1-2 Hardwick Street in Clerkenwell – for £20.5m. The additional cost has been funded from College reserves, built up over a number of years for just such an eventuality.
With Belgravia House becoming increasingly unfit for purpose in recent years, in terms of size facilities and condition, the new building – a converted Victorian warehouse with open-plan office space spread across six floors – will ultimately provide the College with significantly more room and facilities to operate efficiently, much greater flexibility to accommodate traditional and new working practices, and the scope to fulfil its stated aim of becoming the regulator for the whole of the vet-led team.
The new premises are large enough not only to accommodate a larger staff and more College meetings and member/associate events, but also to cater for greater social distancing and hybrid working, if and when these might be required again in the future. Any unwanted space can be rented out, which would create income for the College whilst maintaining its investment. Two such existing tenants will continue to lease office space at 1-2 Hardwick Street for the time being and, although timescales are still to be finalised, some refurbishment work will need to be completed before the College and RCVS Knowledge teams can start to take some occupancy.
Following Council’s earlier decision to terminate the lease on Belgravia House at the end of March 2022, RCVS staff will continue to work either remotely, or in temporary office space leased from the flexible workplace provider, WeWork, at its Chancery Lane site. This arrangement represents a significant financial saving for the College, compared to leasing back Belgravia House from the new owners under the original arrangement.
Alongside these flexible working options, Council and Committees will continue to hold meetings on a mixed basis of in-person, hybrid and remote, in order to minimise costs and improve sustainability, with longer or larger meetings held at external venues as and when necessary.
Chief Executive Lizzie Lockett said: “Like any property purchase, it has been an extremely long and difficult journey to get to this point, with many challenges to navigate along the way, but I am delighted that we are finally able to announce our new home.
“Whilst we will have to wait a while longer before we can enjoy everything 1-2 Hardwick Street has to offer, we are very much looking forward to welcoming members of the professions to visit our new offices, and being able to host a variety of meetings and new events there for them.
“None of this would have been possible without a tremendous amount of hard work and perseverance by our Estate Strategy Group, chaired by former RCVS President Dr Barry Johnson MRCVS and, in particular, our Director of Operations, Corrie McCann. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us to this point.”