Top criminal chambers forced to seek new premises as developers sniff cash
The leading criminal barristers’ chambers 9-12 Bell Yard is being booted out of its home in the heart of legal London to make way for millionaires seeking a pied-á-terre in the capital.
Legal Cheek has learned — thanks to one of our commenters — that a planning application has been lodged to change the use of the existing building from office to residential with an objective to “provide 9 residential units at 9-12 Bell Yard”.
Yesterday evening the set’s boss, Mukul Chawla QC, confirmed to us that his chambers is having to seek new premises from 2017 because the freehold of the building has been sold. Given that 9-12 Bell Yard takes its name from its address, this will cause something of a branding problem.
Reflecting on the “sad fact of life that office space is being bought up around Fleet Street to convert into residential accommodation which is much more valuable”, Chawla told Legal Cheek that he is determined to keep the set together. He went on:
Over the next 2 years we will be looking for alternative accommodation. There is no question of these chambers breaking up — we are a very happy band of people who have worked hard to make Chambers a success and intend to carry on doing so. The fact that we will have to do so from another address is a challenge that we are looking forward to.
The news follows Argent Chambers’ decision last year to vacate adjoining 5 Bell Yard in order to merge with Goldsmith Chambers in the Temple. Interestingly, there has also been an application lodged to convert Argent’s former home into apartments. With Bell Yard boasting views of the Royal Courts of Justice, the properties will no doubt fetch a hefty sum.
Chawla doesn’t yet know where 9-12 Bell Yard will move to. When we asked if spiralling legal London rents would force him to consider a relocation to a cheaper part of town, he said that he wants “to stay close if possible but will have to see what is available”, adding:
Dalston is a bit too far out for us!