The proposal to redevelop the iconic India Club building in London has been rejected by the Westminster City Council, which said that the venue is “culturally important.” The Council’s planning committee turned down the application from the property company to revamp the hotel building on the Strand to give it a more modern appeal.
In a meeting held on July 31, the four-member committee unanimously voted to reject the proposal from Marston Properties Ltd. to carry out partial demolition of the six-storey building in order to add more rooms and shut down the restaurant.
“The application is considered unacceptable due to the loss of Class A1 retail and the loss of the India Club, an important cultural and night time entertainment use and is accordingly recommended for refusal,” the committee said.
“Westminster council refused permission for the redevelopment of 143-145 Strand due the potential loss of an important cultural venue located on its site, the India Club. The India Club has a special place in the history of our Indian community and it is right that we protect it from demolition,” Councillor Tony Devenish, chairman of Westminster’s planning applications sub-committee, said, the Guardian reported.
The India Club, which was a hub for Indian nationals in London during the Independence movement in the 1930s and ’40s, is recalled for its connection with the India League, which was founded by Annie Besant in 1921 and revived by Krishna Menon in 1929. The India Club was founded by Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, in 1946 and moved to the Strand in 1964. Its co-founders included Lady Edwina Mountbatten, wife of the last viceroy, and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
The campaign to preserve the place was launched by Yadgar Marker, the director of Golds and Hotels Limited trading as The Strand Continental Hotel, which houses the India Club. Marker, a Parsee-origin man, has been running the establishment with his wife, Freny, since they rescued it from destruction in 1997.
“We are delighted that Westminster council has refused an application that would have seen a unique and iconic piece of London’s history disappear,” Phiroza Marker, who attended the meeting with her father, Yadgar, was quoted as saying by the publication. “We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received with over 26,000 people signing our petition in support of the India Club,” she added.
Marker said that they would continue to campaign for the building’s preservation, and would apply to Westminster for it to become an Asset of Community Value, the Hindu reported.
The Markers had earlier campaigned for getting the India Club the status of a listed building from Historic England, a public body that looks after the historic environment and places in the region. The application was, however, turned down in May this year.