Fort Halstead has been part of the UK Government’s defence establishment since its origins in the 1890’s, with substantial expansion during the First World War and continued development throughout the 20th century as a research and development establishment specialising in a wide range of military applications involving explosives, armaments, rocket technology and weaponry.Most recently it has been part of the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
In 2001 the site was transferred into the ownership of QinetiQ, a privatised part of the UK’s defense industry which describes itself as a leading science and engineering company operating in defense, security and aerospace markets. The company has over 5,000 employees, with a turnover of around £780m, with an operating profit of c £116m.
In 2000 the company was one of the largest employers in the Sevenoaks area with around 1300 employees at Fort Halstead, specialising in research and forensic analysis of explosives.
In 2006 QinetiQ sold the site to a company with the name Armstrong Kent LLP, which appears to be a ‘propco’, i.e. a company that does no more than hold an interest in a property asset.
The principal parties controlling Armstrong Kent appear originally to have been three entities, namely Hines Suburban Ltd, Deutsche Bank and QiniteQ itself. In 2017 Deutsche Bank disposed of its financial interest but continues to be listed as part of the management.
Hines is a huge, Houston-based global real-estate company, privately owned with 4,000 staff, and is probably now the main stake-holder.
QinetiQ may have completed what might be described in part as a sale-and-lease-back, in effect transferring the asset to a new company whilst retaining a vested interest as the principal commercial tenant. This is as much as we know and is open to correction and clarification.