Profiles Interviews

First look at the UK’s tallest Premier Inn

Hotel Owner sits down with Louise Woodruff, property acquisitions manager at Whitbread who explains how the logistics behind the group’s tallest Premier Inn

Whitbread, the owners of Premier Inn, recently completed the structuring of a new hotel in the centre of Canary Wharf. Located adjacent to Westferry DLR station, the £151m project comprises a 400-bedroom hotel and 68 new homes. Designed by architects Simpson Haugh, and constructed by John Sisk and Son, the 30-storey building which will aim to be completed next year, will be the tallest Premier Inn hotel built in the UK to date.

The group began initial discussions with developer Rockwell in 2016 having had their eye on the area for more than 10 years. The scheme finally received planning permission in 2018 and was sold to Aviva through investment in 2019, eventually breaking ground in January 2020. Premier Inn will take up a 30-year lease of the hotel and restaurant.

Impact of Covid

Since the group broke ground in the early months of the pandemic, Louise Woodruff the property acquisition manager for Whitbread explains that construction was initially halted because of lockdown restrictions for a couple of weeks while social distancing measures were put in place. Since then the construction team reportedly “made up the time” and are currently on track for it to be completed next year.

She shares that all 28 floors including the structural parts of the building are complete, along with the 30 stories of residential. “It’s just the internals which will take the next 10 months to fit out,” she adds.

Outside of the Covid restrictions and impact of this, for Woodruff, she claims that some of the challenges for the project included finding the site and making a deal that would work for the developer. In addition, the logistics for the site proved to also be challenging such as making sure there was the “right lift that could work on all the floors” to allow easy access for cleaning and guest transport.

The process

The architects Simpson Haugh prior to the project even beginning, had designed the interior layout for each room which would then be implemented once the exterior was completed. This also included the new enhanced Premier rooms, 80 of which will be on the upper floors. In the new rooms, guests will get an “additional touch” with a Nespresso machine, a small fridge, different carpets as well as a walk in shower, she says.

One of the main differences between this hotel and all the other Premier Inn’s is that this is the tallest one ever to be built. Woodruff notes this was a “happy coincidence”. She says having the tallest building will become a USP for the company because people will want to stay in the hotel to see the views of the London skyline.

Meanwhile Whitbread states that it expects to employ around 150 people at the hotel with the exact number to be determined closer to the opening date. The creation of new jobs has been fundamental throughout, she says, in the early stages of the development, Rockwell partnered with the London Training Centre to deliver hospitality skills training and qualifications to residents of Tower Hamlets.

Rockwell’s first 30 graduates, all women from the Westferry area, have now found employment having completed a two-month training programme and gaining Level 2 qualifications in a range of different skill sets. Upon completion, the development will create many more hotel and hospitality job opportunities for individuals living in Tower Hamlets and more graduates from developer Rockwell’s Hospitality Skills Programme.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how this project turns out and getting customers to come and stay on one of these floors,” she concludes.

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