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Old War Office in Whitehall to be 125-room luxury hotel

Spies’ entrance remains at the building which featured in a number of James Bond films

17 February, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

How the new hotel could look

A HISTORIC Whitehall building where Winston Churchill once worked and military decisions were made is to be transformed into a luxury hotel.

Permission was granted for the historic Grade II- listed Old War Office at a meeting in City Hall on Tuesday night.

Built at the start of the 20th century, it was used for planning and strategy meetings during the First and Second World Wars and has housed ministers from Lord Kitchener to the disgraced John Profumo.

The new development will include 88 residential flats but no affordable housing. International developer Hinduja Group and OHL Desarrollos offered £10million towards Westminster Council’s affordable housing fund, which was accepted. Council auditors had said affordable hous- ing was not “viable” for the site.

Lancaster Gate councillor Susie Burbridge said: “Lots of our young people are kept out of the housing market because we can’t make our policies stick. We have to be able to turn to our consultants and say OK, if it’s not viable, could you please tell us how we do make it viable? Everyone could decide to put gold-plated doors on the things and then we would never get any affordable.”

Heart of Whitehall: The Old War Office

A 250-year lease to the building was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 2014 for £350million.  A spies’ entrance remains at the building which featured in a number of James Bond films as the MI6 headquarters.

Labour Cllr David Boothroyd, who opposed the hotel plans, on design grounds, said: “It does show really how stupid the viability assessments are when this can come as unviable, and yet the developer can offer £10million.”

Historic England and the Victorian Society both objected to the plans for the building which is in the Whitehall Conservation Area, raising concerns about the changes to the historic building. There were also objections from neighbouring businesses and residents, about issues including design, traffic and parking, effect on neighbours due to the addition of three extra storeys, as well as historic considerations.

One objector said: “It is a masterpiece of Edwardian architecture as well as being a monument of great significance in the context of modern British history. Its external features should not be modified in any way. “To do so would be a national scandal”. The 125-room hotel, will include a large ballroom with space for 600 guests, a spa, a restaurant and bar. With the addition of three storeys in height and two basement floors, there will also be room for swimming pool, to be shared by hotel guests and residents, and a car park.

Speaking at his first planning committee as chairman, Cllr Richard Beddoe said: “It is a beautiful building of huge national importance. A lot happened there, just ask Mr Profumo.”

Cllr Beddoe added: “These plans give this building a new purpose while respecting its place in history. The War Office has played a pivotal role in our country’s past and ensuring members of the public had opportunity to visit and experience this iconic building first-hand was a key consideration in our decision.”

The developers had said the proposals “would lead to major and wholly positive benefits centred on the creation of a landmark hotel and high-quality residential apartments, securing the success of securing the reuse of the building, enabling public access into it for the very first time and ensuring the long-term viability, conservation and relevance of the listed building for future generations.”

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