An ambitious £1 billion plan to turn London’s Old War Office into a luxurious hotel is set to be approved, reports the Standard.
The Old War Office, on Whitehall, was the headquarters of the British Empire’s military. Winston Churchill had an office in the vast building, which has 1100 rooms and two miles of corridors and is regarded as an Edwardian masterpiece. The trapezium-shaped property was sold in March 2016 for £350 million to the Hinduja Group. Prior to that it was used by the War Office (between 1906 and 1964) and the Ministry of Defence.
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The developers plan to add a massive basement and three additional floors to the building, which already covers 580,000 square-feet. Restaurants, shops, bars, a spa, a gym, a pool and 88 flats are also part of the plan. Architects told the Standard that the design will “unlock” secret corridors for public access for the first time, describing the project as a “once in a generation opportunity”.
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The scale of the plans has proved controversial, though, with fears the development could compromise a historic and significant building in London’s heart. One resident told the Standard. “This building is a masterpiece of Edwardian architecture and a monument of significance in British history. Its external features should not be modified. It would be a scandal.”
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The Old War Office doubled as the headquarters of MI6 in several James Bond films, including Skyfall. Surrounding St James’s and Westminster are packed with government buildings and visitor sights, including Westminster Abbey, No 10 Downing Street, the Churchill War Rooms and the Houses of Parliament. The scheme is set to be approved at a meeting of Westminster Council on Tuesday 14 February, with suggestions the agreement will include the developers making a commitment to make a £10 million contribution to affordable housing in London.
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