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LONDON-Westbrook has exchanged contracts to buy Dolphin Square in Pimlico. The fund is paying euro 296 million ($361 million) to the leaseholder, Westminster Council, to freeholder Friends Provident and to subleaseholder Dolphin Square Trust. A statement issued jointly by the council and the trust says a sizeable sum had been set aside to support affordable and key worker housing and to safeguard the interests of tenants.

The apartment block has a storied and somewhat checkered past. It has been home to spies, politicians and members of the Royal Family.

“We have just finished a detailed and comprehensive negotiation with the city council and the trust over a number of issues,” Mark Donnor, Westbrook director, says. “Some tenants will benefit from initial concessions on car park rent levels, caps on rental increases and enhanced succession rights.”

“The sale means that we are a step closer to our goal of establishing the largest charitable donation ever seen in this country for affordable housing,” council member Councillor Angela adds.

Affordable housing is a thorny political issue in the capital. In essence, government policy requires councils to ensure there is a sufficient supply of housing in the area for rent or for lower income families unable to afford the soaring property prices in London.

Negotiations were drawn out over 12 months and involved a legal wrangle over the condition of the housing estate. A inside source says this had been resolved but meant the fund was able to get a sizeable discount on the purchase price.

Contingency funds have also been set aside in case of a legal challenge by the tenants.

The 1930s complex is the largest block of privately rented flats in London and includes ornamental gardens, a fountain and tree-lined avenues. There are more than 1,000 apartments, a croquet lawn, restaurant, health club, tennis court and swimming pool.

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