The fate of Hyde Park Barracks, the central London barracks which plays host to the Household Cavalry, may be about to become clearer after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a clarion call to the property industry.
A notice issued by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the organisation in charge of managing the army's estates, has invited the industry to attend a webinar on Project Rose, the codename given to its programme to determine the future of the barracks and other central London sites.
"Participants will be invited to test/challenge and validate the options presented and be given the opportunity to propose innovative alternatives either through open forum or confidentially," the notice said.
"DIO has completed an enquiry by design activity and developed a number of options and now wishes to engage with the widest possible industry network to keep communication open.
"DIO aims to provide an update, an opportunity to test/challenge assumptions/constraints/potential solutions and a forum for industry to suggest innovative alternatives."
Plans to sell the barracks were originally revealed in 2012 after the MoD appointed property services giant CBRE to execute a "market testing" exercise – but it has so far yielded no results. According to online estate agent Emoov, the barracks could be sold for as much as £490m.
The barracks sits on a 1.4 hectare site bordering Kensington and Knightsbridge, and includes a 450ft frontage onto Kensington Road, almost next door to the ultra-prime apartments at One Hyde Park and opposite The Knightsbridge, where a two-bedroom flat recently sold for £3.8m.
But there is a catch: back in 2012, developers who showed interest in the site were told as part of a deal they would have to come up with a way to rehome the 300 troops housed by the austere 1970s blocks.
Because changing the guard each morning is one of the Household Cavalry's duties, its new home must be within 4km of Horse Guards Parade, and can be no more than 1km from an outdoor equestrian area.
It is this condition which has proven near-impossible for developers to meet – although Albany Street Barracks, near Regent's Park, has been mooted as a possible replacement.
However, even if they do find a new home for the Household Cavalry, the site's potential new owners will be faced with a further complication as putting the barracks back into civilian use would require an Act of Parliament.
But one factor may be on the side of developers: in October 2015 culture minister Tracey Crouch rejected proposals to award the barracks listed status, despite a campaign receiving backing from Historic England.
In 2003, the site was ranked at number eight in a list of the UK's biggest eyesores by Country Life magazine.
"Project Rose has been ongoing," a DIO spokesperson added today. "Our position hasn't changed on it."
The MoD is expected to formally update Parliament on plans for Hyde Park Barrack later this year.