Deadline nears for Naval College bids

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Agents handling the sale of the lease for the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, one of Britain's architectural master-pieces, anticipate a flurry of bids minutes before the deadline at noon tomorrow.

Yet as the countdown entered its final hours yesterday, not one sealed bid had been received, despite expressions of interest in the Grade I listed building on the Thames from more than 450 organisations.

However, Knight Frank & Rutley, the estate agents co- ordinating the sale of the 150-year lease for the Ministry of Defence, said proposals for large properties invariably arrived right at the last moment as organisations tended to use all the available time.

The sale of the Sir Christopher Wren-designed complex, which will have stringent conditions attached, has provoked outrage in some circles from those who fear the new tenants may not be in keeping with its character.

In response, though, the Government has always been at pains to point out that the successful proposal, not to be announced for some months, "will be sympathetic to the character of the site".

For this reason and the sheer scale of the site, Richard Haynes, of Knight Frank & Rutley, predicted that the number of bids would ultimately not be very large.

Primary contenders are the National Maritime Museum and the University of Greenwich, which propose transforming Greenwich into Britain's foremost Baroque site which would host the millennium celebrations.

But bids are also expected from other educational organisations,in Britain and abroad. "There has been some other interest but the serious interest that will result in a bid is almost exclusively educational," said Mr Haynes.