The BBC has sold its film studios in Borehamwood just to rent them back again.

The BBC Elstree Centre in Eldon Avenue, which is the home of the EastEnders film set, was bought by French insurance company Axa.

Under the deal, the corporation will rent the studios back on a 25-year lease to continue filming at the 16-acre complex, which has been the home of Albert Square since it started in 1985.

Although the terms of the deal are unknown, the BBC asked for around £70 million when it first put the site on the market in 2022. 

Alan Dickson, BBC chief finance officer, told the Financial Times that the sale was “part of an ongoing review of the BBC’s property portfolio in order to provide the best value for licence fee payers”. 

The BBC bought the complex in 1984 and filming for EastEnders started a year later on the external set.

The fake square was only intended to be used for two years, but filming continued there for 37 years until it was rebuilt from 2017 to 2022 at a cost of £87 million.

The site also features seven studios and has been used for large productions such as the BBC’s Children in Need, Comic Relief and election coverage.

The site is one of several TV and film facilities in the area, such as the Hertsmere Borough Council-owned Elstree Studios, which was used for Star Wars (1977), The Shining (1980) and the first three Indiana Jones movies.

Axa IM’s global co-head of real estate John O’Driscoll said: "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."

The sale is part of several cost-cutting measures by BBC Director General Tim Davie after the government froze the BBC’s licence fee for two years in 2022 despite the rate of inflation. 

The BBC previously scaled back BBC Two's Newsnight to a 30-minute programme in November 2023 to save money.

The government has restricted the licence fee increase in 2024 from 9 per cent down to 6.6 per cent. This means the annual fee will increase from £159 to £169.30 a year from April.