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India Club restaurant site to be retained but lease renewal spells uncertainty

21 August 2018 by
India Club restaurant site to be retained but lease renewal spells uncertainty

The restaurant space home to London's India Club would be saved under new plans to develop the hotel it sits within, but the operator's lease is up for renewal next year meaning its future remains in doubt.

The owners of the Strand Continental Hotel, in central London, have submitted a second planning application to renovate the site after Westminster City Council refused an initial proposal, that would have seen the space refurbished into bedrooms citing the historical importance of the club.

New plans propose retaining the restaurant and bar spaces on the first and second floors, while undertaking extensive works to improve access, including the addition of a lift.

The hotel's interior would also be renovated to offer 30 en-suite rooms.

The earlier planning application prompted an online petition to save the club which garnered more than 21,000 signatures, and saw several members of the House of Lords, the artist Anish Kapoor as well as regular visitors among those giving support.

The club was started by India's first high commissioner to the UK, Krishna Menon, and counted Lady Mountbatten and prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru among its founding members.

The campaign to retain the restaurant also sought protection from Historic England, but the body declined to list the site noting that the India Club had only occupied the site since 1964, having been established at 41 Craven Street, London, in 1951.

Yadgar Marker, the proprietor of the India Club, has said the new proposal still fail to recognise its cultural and historical significance, identified by the council's planning committee.

He said: "Westminster's planning committee has made clear that the India Club should be preserved and acknowledged that it is entirely separate to the hotel use at the current building. The freeholder's new application completely ignores this, making no provision for the India Club in addition to the proposed hotel and retail usages.

"We have repeatedly tried to meet with the freeholder to see if we can work together but they have ignored our requests for a meeting in the past. If they now want to respect the wishes of the Westminster Council and preserve the India Club as part of their proposals we would urge them to immediately confirm this and meet us so that the 26,000 people who signed a petition in support of the India Club can be reassured."

A spokesman for Marston Properties said negotiations for the lease of the site will be entered when it comes up for renewal next year.

"We have listened to the criticism from councillors and these new plans retain a restaurant, while addressing the loss of retail space and retail frontage and providing safe access and means of escape. It is absolutely vital we are able to bring this building in to line with modern safety standards and ensure that no one staying in the hotel is at risk. The current plans retain a restaurant and bar as part of the hotel operation."

The hotel currently has no disabled access, with the applicant adding that an independent fire engineer declared grave concern for the safety of hotel guests and customers of the club.

Richard Whale, author of the fire safety report by Whale Fire Ltd, said: "There are many fire safety deficiencies in the building as it currently stands and I believe this need to be addressed with some urgency. This is a mixed-use building with retail and commercial and can and will include intoxicated and sleeping residents.

"The lack of an established and compliant alternative fire escape route leaves occupants potentially at risk. Whilst building control regulations do not have to be retrospectively applied, it is my professional opinion that the proposed changed will significantly enhance the fire safety precautions within the building."

Marker added: "We take any concerns relating to fire safety extremely seriously. If the freeholder had had the courtesy of responding to our communications and even sending us their latest fire risk assessment, rather than sending it straight to the press, we could have given them details of a recent routine inspection by London Fire Brigade who made a small number of recommendations to be implemented by December 2018. We are already in the process of doing this and will, of course, ensure that the fire brigade are fully satisfied."

Application to convert London's India Club into hotel rooms is refused>>

Bid to save London's India Club served a blow>>

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