‘Scares me rigid’: Residents raise fire safety concerns as 187-room underground hotel wins planning permission

The development will sit beneath St Giles Hotel. Photograph: Ethan Doyle White / Wikicommons

An underground hotel with 187 bedrooms can open near the British Museum.

Developers Central London Investments won planning permission for a revised scheme for the subterranean hotel in a former car park in Bloomsbury.

It will see more hotel accommodation beneath the unconnected 730-bedroom St Giles Hotel and the YMCA gym on Great Russell Street.

The new hotel in the Brutalist 20th-century building will use the ground floor and two basement levels.

The scheme attracted 13 objections, with some nearby residents concerned about noise from service vehicles and waste collection.

A previous application in 2016 for 166 rooms was approved by Camden planning committee.

The developers later asked to increase this to 207 rooms but were rejected in 2022 over concerns about “poor quality visitor accommodation” and insufficient space for back-of-house services.

Roger Wilson from the Bloomsbury Association told councillors that residents are concerned about the increase in rooms and said there would be more noise, more waste, and extra deliveries for the vending machines.

The council said just one delivery vehicle a week was expected “for guest amenities”.

Wilson said the waste storage area at street level would be too small for the hotel.

He said: “This is really overdevelopment.”

A planning report said waste will only be put out at collection times.

Wilson also raised concerns about evacuation if there was a fire.

He said the thought of evacuating hundreds of people at 3am “trying to get out from under ground scares me rigid”.

He said the lessons of the Grenfell fire tragedy must be learned.

The council said the fire statement was drawn up by fire engineers and will be reviewed by building control.

The Bloomsbury Residents Action Group are worried that there is just one lift despite the number of rooms increasing, and fear the impact of service at street level.

The applicant said it is signing up to the “highest level of lift protection” with rapid call-outs and pointed out that there is a ramp that can be used to evacuate wheelchair users.

It plans to “respect nearby residential neighbours” and has worked with then over an operational management plan and amended the scheme because of the council’s concerns.

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