Admiralty Arch Project Recommended for Approval

on Aug 15, 2013
Listen Thursday, August 15th: The redevelopment project which will turn Admiralty Arch, the grand gateway to Buckingham Palace in Central London, into a luxury hotel has been recommended for approval, but council officials are concerned about the planned provision of social housing and the size of the members club in the historic London property.

The Grade I-listed arch, which curtains St James’s Park from the hubbub of Trafalgar Square, was bought last year for £60 million by the property-focused private equity group Prime Investors Capital (PIC) headed by the Spanish financier Rafael Serrano. PIC, which recently built the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, acquired the Admiralty Arch from the UK government on a 99-year lease. The company intends to transform the building, which was erected as a memorial to Queen Victoria, into a five-star 100-bedroom hotel complete with royal and presidential suites, a ballroom, spa and fine dining restaurant. Residential apartments are also planned for the first and second floors on the north side of the arch. In its planning submission PIC offered to make an additional payment of £700,000, £600,000 of which would be for social housing, to be developed elsewhere in the borough, and the rest for “public art”.

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As The Times reported yesterday, officials at Westminster City Council had said that the scheme was “acceptable in heritage terms” and would secure essential property investment in one of the capital’s most important areas. Yet, the planning officers warned that that the proposal might fail to meet the minimum social housing contribution. In a report published ahead of a committee meeting next week, they questioned whether the sum towards affordable housing was acceptable. It was thought likely the council would push for a higher contribution, The Times noted.

**Size of Members Club Also Under Question**
The Westminster Council has also raised concerns about the planned size of the hotel’s members club, which will form part of the Admiralty Arch redevelopment, and have suggested that the club’s capacity should be limited.
PIC has proposed having 400 private members, with flexibility for 800 on special occasions. The company has consulted 119 local residents and received no objections. Yet, according to the planning officials’ report, the cumulative impact of these entertainment uses could be harmful to residential amenity, local environmental quality and the character and function of the area. The document further read: “A condition is therefore recommended to limit the capacity of the club to 300 persons.”

According to a statement made by a Westminster City Council spokesman, the planning committee will look at PIC’s application next Tuesday, before making a final decision on “what is an important building in an iconic part of the capital.”
A spokeswoman for PIC was quoted by The Financial Times as saying yesterday that the company was “pleased with the planning report and the overall recommendations on the Admiralty Arch application”. She added: “The principal aim of our proposal is to identify and enhance the heritage values of Admiralty Arch through careful restoration and to secure its long term future.”


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