Joe Jackson –
Plans to renovate a historic Indian restaurant in central London are causing a stir, pitting the developers against high-profile defenders, including intellectuals and lawmakers from both countries.
The India Club, a restaurant near London’s West End, is trying to block proposals by owners Marston Properties to turn the seven-storey building into an upmarket boutique hotel.
“This is a very historic place, we haven’t changed anything,” Yadgar Marker, the club’s current director, said.
The club was set up by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to Britain, in the early 1950s, and counted Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s inaugural prime minister, among its founding members, Marker said.
It has served as a meeting place for writers, intellectuals and politicians, Marker wrote earlier this month to Westminster Council, the local authority in charge of planning decisions.
Marston Properties submitted its application on September 8 to Westminster Council to partially demolish and extend the building.
It currently houses a bakery and convenience store on the ground floor and the India Club and Hotel Strand Continental on the upper levels.
Marker, who has run the club and hotel for the last 20 years, said he was “quite surprised” to learn of the plans in an email from the company.
With their seven-year lease set to expire in 2019, he fears it will mean the end of the club.
The club has applied for the building to receive protected status from Historic England, which recommends which sites of cultural value the British government should designate.
A spokesman for the public body said it would make a decision on whether to recommend listing it by January 19, 2018.
Simon Marshall of Marston Properties said it was cooperating with Historic England “to establish the true heritage links of this building.”
He said the company had commissioned its own independent historical research into the club.
“The extent of (the) heritage links… are not in fact particularly clear,” he added.
Marshall stressed no final decision had been made to redevelop building.
Loyal longtime customers have been voicing their support.
A petition launched by the club had garnered over 14,000 signatures by Monday. — AFP