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Blackfriars Road hotel: public inquiry begins

A public inquiry into plans to build a 10-storey 'lifestyle hotel' in the car park of a Blackfriars Road office building has heard its first evidence.

Blackfriars Road hotel: public inquiry begins
In this image the proposed hotel can be seen behind The Foundary, to the rear of the existing 160 Blackfriars Road block

Last autumn Southwark Council's planning committee vetoed plans by Endurance Land to build a 220-room hotel in the vacant car park at the rear of the 160 Blackfriars Road office block.

The developer lodged an appeal against the councillors' decision, and planning inspector David Nicholson will now have the final say.

Mr Nicholson is this week presiding over a public inquiry at Southwark's Tooley Street offices which will air arguments for and against the scheme.

The inquiry heard opening statements on Tuesday morning.

Rupert Warren QC, for the appellant, said that his client's scheme would bring "regeneration and reuse of underutilised brown-field car park".

Mr Warren said that "the hotel would not be significantly taller than its surroundings or have a significant impact on the skyline" and argued there are "no existing or consented hotels in close proximity".

He added: "It is hard to see how the proposed hotel would cause a harmful profusion of hotel use in this area."

Southwark Council is represented at the inquiry by barrister Stephanie Hall who argued that there is a "harmful oversupply of hotels in the locality" and that the planning process should be "plan-led rather than market-led".

The barrister noted that the site is earmarked for housing development in the council's draft New Southwark Plan and that the hotel scheme would prevent this from being realised.

Ms Hall also highlighted the council's concerns about the quality of the proposed hotel accommodation as the designs include a number of windowless rooms.

She added: "The site is backland in nature and is unsuitable for a prominent building."

A local resident addressed the inquiry and drew attention to the very long list of hotels currently open or under development along Blackfriars Road and its side streets. He also highlighted Lambeth Council's recent decision to seek a moratorium on new hotels in Waterloo in recognition of the impact on local communities.

Daniel Hyde, representing credit reference agency Experian, which occupies two floors of the 160 Blackfriars Road building, spoke at the inquiry to raise the company's concerns about the proposed hotel which would at its closest point be just 4.4 metres from the firm's office windows.

Experian fears that hotel guests might be able to read sensitive documents being handled in the offices.

"It cannot be disputed that there is a potential for highly confidential data and information to be compromised by visitors staying in the accommodation proposed as part of this appellant proposal," claimed Mr Hyde.

Borough & Bankside ward councillor Adele Morris, who sat on the planning committee that turned down the application, also spoke at the inquiry to underline the concerns felt by members who took the unusual step of overturning a recommendation from planning officers that the scheme be approved.

The inquiry is expected to sit for four or five days, including a site visit by the inspector. Mr Nicholson's decision will be published in due course.

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