Five-star Connaught Hotel in al-fresco dining ‘land grab' row

Tables and chairs are 'unacceptable encroachment of crude corporate commercial interest'

Friday, 9th March 2018 — By Richard Osley


An architect’s impression of the dining area 

AN upmarket hotel that wants to provide al fresco drinking and dining to guests has been accused of grabbing public land.

The five-star Connaught in Mayfair, where the most spacious room can cost up to £3,000 per night, will find out on Tuesday whether it can fence off part of the pedestrianised area at the junction of Mount Street and Carlos Place – recently part of a council revamp – for its customers.

Neighbours are split on the proposal, with Westminster’s planning department handed warnings that it will ruin the ambience of the new look of the road, where the pavement has been widened and a new water sculpture has been added.

It has also received messages of support, however, and officials have recommended that councillors grant temporary permission for the tables and chairs for a year.

“It is an unacceptable encroachment of crude corporate commercial interests on public space,” said one objection, which added: “It seems utterly naïve to believe the Connaught Hotel will offer these tables/chairs for public use, on a first-come first-served basis, such that residents can spend time unencumbered by the need to order any drinks or food.”

The letter from a nearby resident said: “It is more than a little ironic that the iconic water sculpture in front of the Connaught is titled ‘Silence’, while these plans are likely to produce the opposite of that exhortation.

“Tadao Ando designed the fountain in a way to imbue passers-by with feelings of quiet and highlight the calm of this corner of Mayfair… The Connaught’s proposed plans are exactly going to destroy the ‘silence’ and ‘space’ that Tadao Ando’s design was trying to achieve.”

The changes would see the hotel lay out the furniture from 7.30am to 10pm every day, bar Sunday.

Another objector added: “The public highway is exactly that, a public highway, and should not be utilised for profiteering by a hotel.”

But there is a difference of opinion among other residents and businesses who welcome the idea. Melissa Morris, the founder of luxury jewellers L.O.N.B., said: “It is always so nice to see the street alive when people dine outside at Scotts and the Mount Street Deli. As The Connaught is the cornerstone to the street, this would be a wonderful addition to offer outdoor seating and further create ambiance on this beautiful street.”

The hotel said in its application: “Public consultation has been undertaken with the neighbouring properties… Some concern was expressed in terms of hours of operation… however, this has been modified to suit the new requirements and comments by neighbouring properties. The proposal is in keeping with the character of Mount Street, and is in tended to enhance the quality of the conservation area.”

The Connaught had been part of a three-way agreement with the Grosvenor Estate and Westminster Council to improve the paved area at the junction.

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