BBC to sell Eastenders set in effort to raise money

The BBC has agreed a deal to sell the Elstree Centre in Hertfordshire, which includes the EastEnders set, to the insurance company Axa.

However, the long-running TV soap will continue to be filmed on-site as the BBC has also agreed to lease back Albert Square for the next 25 years.

The BBC reports that the sale of the 16-acre site, which is thought to be in the region of £70m, comes as the broadcaster seeks to find £500m in annual savings.

“The sale of the Elstree Centre site is part of an ongoing review of the BBC’s property portfolio in order to provide the best value for licence fee payers,” chief financial officer Alan Dickson said.

“As part of the sale, the EastEnders site has been secured on a long-term lease and Elstree will continue to be the home of Albert Square.”

It is only two years since the BBC finished rebuilding the EastEnders set at Elstree, at a total cost of £87m. That figure was reportedly £27m over budget and arrived four years late.

Albert Square will continue to be home to EastEnders following the sale (Getty Images)
Albert Square will continue to be home to EastEnders following the sale (Getty Images)

The BBC also recently sold the Maida Vale music studios and is in the process of moving out of Wogan House, in central London, which is the current home of Radio 2.

Meanwhile, Axa have said that they will redevelop Elstree but will continue to operate the site as a commercial film studio.

“The structure of the transaction allows the BBC to continue its production on the site for at least another 25 years, while providing us with the opportunity to invest in the site to create new world-class studios,” said John O’Driscoll, global co-head of real estate for Axa IM Alts (Investment Managers Alternative Markets).

“The whole area has a long and illustrious history of producing some of the world’s most celebrated films and television series and, under our stewardship, we aim to continue that legacy.”

In 2022, EastEnders royalty Danny Dyer welcomed the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Albert Square at the Elstree Centre for a special episode in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Charles and Camilla surprised the residents of Walford after Mick Carter, played by Dyer, decided to throw a street party for the Square in celebration of the late monarch’s 70-year reign.

The partygoers were left in disbelief when the royal couple pulled up in a car outside The Queen Vic pub and were greeted by Mick and Linda Carter, played by Kellie Bright.