The iconic Indian restaurant and bar — much unchanged since its opening in the 1940s, when it served as a meeting place for writers and intellectuals, especially in the intervening period following the Indian Independence Act in 1947 — was only saved from a first round of development plans in July, as Eater reported. Now, Marston Properties has submitted a second development application, citing a fire safety risk. Surveyor Meryl Benzies said:
“Multiple recommendations made in the 2010 fire risk assessment have not been addressed by the hotel management. An annual review was recommended, yet no further risk assessments have been carried out.”
The lease on the building expires in 2019, with Marston understood to be open to negotiations over the building’s long term future. The original plans prompted a petition to save the club, which had amassed over 26,000 signatures by the time Westminster Council rejected Marston’s first round of plans, citing “The potential loss of an important cultural venue.” Eater understands that this round of plans will not threaten the restaurant and bar, but The India Club have since provided a statement controverting the benign nature of the plans:
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. By simply saying that the hotel will contain a restaurant and bar they are ignoring the unique cultural and historical significance of the India Club that the planning committee has wanted to protect. 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.
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. Once again, we would urge the freeholder to meet us and work together so we can respect the wishes of Westminster Council that the India Club is retained as part of any future redevelopment of the building.