Plans for Custom House hotel conversion thrown out

Squire and Partners had initially submitted plans to convert the Neoclassical building into a 200-room hotel

A planning inspector has reportedly thrown out Squire and Partners’ plans to convert and extend London’s Grade I-listed Custom House into a 200-bedroom hotel, Architects’ Journal has reported.

The architect firm first lodged an appeal alongside Cannon Capital Developments for non-determination after the City of London council failed to rule on the original applications for the project.

While the council lost its power to decide on the proposed plans, the scheme came before the City’s planning committee authority last October, and councillors voted unanimously to refuse it due to the “potential harm to the building’s heritage significance”.

In a decision dated 30 June, planning inspector Paul Griffiths dismissed Squire and Partner’s appeal, highlighting “the injurious effect” the scheme would have on the plan and layout of the building’s original 1817 west wing.

His decision was said to go against the recommendations of Historic England, which had reportedly supported the proposals and instead argued that any potential harm to the significance of the building would be “outweighed by its public benefits”.

In his decision, Griffiths had said: “I recognise that some of these rooms are of a size that does not lend itself easily to conversion to a single hotel room. However, the subdivision of some rooms, and there are examples at ground, first, second, and third-floor levels, would disrupt panelling and joinery, and change the shapes and proportions of those rooms, in ways that would be harmful to plan form and, as a result, the significance of the listed building.

“It is proposed to remove ceilings in some rooms at third-floor level in the west wing in order to open them up into the roof space, exposing the structure. I can see the benefit increasing their volume would bring to these spaces as hotel rooms.” 

He added: “However, there is a hierarchy between rooms on different floors with those at third floor intended to be more modest as a part of that. Opening these rooms up in the manner proposed would disturb that hierarchy by giving them a status that was never intended.

“However, that benefit would be undermined by what I find the most troubling intervention in the west wing of the building. The Tide Waiters’ Room is set against the central lightwell of the west wing and like parts of the vaulted ground floor corridor, draws natural light from it. 

The new lift and staircase core would cut into the lightwell, reducing its size, as would the new lift linking the museum with the rooftop pavilion.”

Squire and Partners has been contacted by Hotel Owner. 

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