Old War Office cleared for conversion to hotel and flats

Written by Jim Dunton on 16 February 2017 in News

Westminster City Council approves proposals for Whitehall landmark despite heritage concerns

The Old War Office in Whitehall. Copyright EPR Architects

Developers who bought Whitehall’s Old War Office from the Ministry of Defence have won planning permission to convert the historic building into a hotel and spa, with additional luxury flats.

The Grade II* building, which was completed in 1906, served for decades as the Army’s administrative headquarters until the creation of the unified Ministry of Defence in 1964.

Westminster City Council’s planning committee this week approved a comprehensive package of redevelopment for the building, which includes the addition of three storeys and the extension of its basement.

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Work will also include the demolition, relocation and reconstruction of the facades of the building’s Triangular Courtyard to incorporate new internal extensions.

The decision came despite concerns from both government heritage adviser Historic England and the Victorian Society over alterations to the building’s appearance, such as the proposed removal of its fourth-floor “bottle balustrades”.

Westminster City Council planning officers acknowledged the scheme involved “substantial alterations” to the building, but said the proposals were considered to be acceptable overall.

The building was sold to the multinational Hinduja Group and a development group backed by Spanish industrial giant Grupo Villar Mir in March 2016 for a sum the MoD said was “in excess of £350m”.

Defence minister Mark Lancaster said the sale – on a 250 year lease – was part of the department’s commitment to achieving a “rationalised defence estate”, but would “ensure the heritage and security of the building for many years to come”.

Among Westminster’s conditions of approval for the scheme was a £10m contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund.

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A Kirby (not verified)

Submitted on 17 February, 2017 - 14:03
T E Lawrence worked here briefly on maps and guidance during the First World War before being sent to Arabia. I'll mention it on my "Mince through the Ministries" LGBT History Month heritage walk next week.

Anon (not verified)

Submitted on 20 February, 2017 - 10:49
What is the point in the government having a `Heritage Adviser` if their concerns are just going to be ignored. Once we lose these magnificent facades then there is no going back. A cheap price for handing over our heritage buildings to be butchered.

Susan2 (not verified)

Submitted on 24 February, 2017 - 12:11
What should have happened to this building is that it should have been turned into flats for MPs who are claiming expenses for renting/buying properties in London whilst living outside of the capital. MoD would have maintained control over the appearance of the building, and also be getting income, instead of paying out expenses for renting/buying second properties.

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