Sorting office redevelopment to extend Brockley high street?

It began with a wheelie bin, it will end with a new apartment block and set of shops on Brockley Road.

The evidence is mounting that Royal Mail is preparing to sell their Brockley Road sorting office for redevelopment.

The logic is compelling: The office occupies what is now a very valuable plot of land close to Brockley Station, where the Council is keen to see more development, to help it meet its new homes target. The sorting office is a pretty inefficient use of that land and truncates what could be a more significant high street.  So, despite the fact that we find it handy, BC's always assumed the sorting office's days were numbered and, on balance, would welcome its redevelopment.

Now there are signs that a sale may be on its way.

Firstly, in May, The Guardian reported that the Royal Mail is under pressure to sell off any unnecessary assets before the company is privatised, in order to that the public realises that value, rather than the shareholders:

The government passed the privatise Royal Mail bill last year, allowing the company to be sold off by the end of 2013 at the earliest, although any sale is unlikely to take place until 2014... But there are fears the company could be sold off too cheaply, either through a private sale or by listing it on the London Stock Exchange. Murray said: "Look at what happened with the utility companies when they were listed. They were sold in a fire sale, so if there is to be an IPO [initial public offering] it needs to be set at the right price, otherwise it could turn into a 'get rich quick' scheme and the taxpayer will be footing the bill."...  

Its property director, Martin Gafsen, said: "Royal Mail has a clear strategy to ensure we derive maximum value from any property we no longer require for our operations. We have a strong track record in using the proceeds from disposal of surplus property to invest in the mail operation.

Next, this week, the Royal Mail orders Lewisham Council's recycling bins off its land without explanation and with immediate effect. BCer Oaksys asked why would the Mail care about the bins all of a sudden, when they've happily accommodated them for years? The bins are a bit of an eyesore, but they don't impact on the work of the sorting office. However, clear them away and the site looks more attractive for sale.

Then, in the discussion that followed, long-time BCer AuntyKate adds that:

The Royal Mail delivered a note through my door a few weeks ago to say that they "tested" leaving parcels with neighbours and the results were "really positive" with 92% of people being satisfied with this. So from late September they are going to do this when you are out rather than return it to the delivery office. To me this change of policy does indicate they are planning to close the sorting office. And sell it for redevelopment.

So, if it goes - what can we realistically expect to take its place?

The space is pretty big, currently accommodating a van yard behind the high street. It could take a large building (possibly with a courtyard) with residential on top and commercial units at ground level (potentially on Harefield Road as well as Brockley Road). Its footprint could swallow a large restaurant, or even a gym - neither of which could be accommodated elsewhere nearby. Sitting on the boundary of the conservation area, we can expect the height to be similar to the roofline of the rest of the high street, with the developers possibly trying to see if they can get away with another floor or two as the building steps back from the road.

Together with the proposed development of 180 Brockley Road, Brockley would then have a high street of a scale and range to match the size of its population and its proximity to two train lines.