Top hotel’s ‘café-chic’ bid comes under fire

Chiltern Firehouse expansion plan sparks objections

Friday, 21st February 2020 — By Tom Foot

manchester square fire station copy

The former fire station, now a luxury venue

A FIVE-STAR hotel in a former fire station has been hit by dozens of objections after unveiling plans to expand its outdoor restaurant seating.

The Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone has submitted a planning application to put 20 tables, 40 chairs and nine heaters on the pavement up to 11pm.

Owners of the restaurant say they want to emulate “chic Parisian cafés” of the bohemian French capital.

But those objecting to the scheme have warned that the changes will have a “huge impact on people’s overall life quality including people’s sleep” and that noise coming from the hotel is “already excessive”. Another said: “The hours are much too long and will be detrimental to the peace and quiet which is the Chiltern Street local residents’ right.”

There have been more than 200 comments on the application, an usually high number. The supporting comments are mainly one or two sentences and straight to the point.

Another objector – names are blanked out on the council’s planning website – said: “The applicant has shown no ability (or inclination) to manage the current noise and disturbance caused by the Firehouse to neighbours. Please take into account that a very large number of the statements of support are from people who visit the area and do not live here…

“Objections on the other hand are from those of us who will have to live with the consequences of the planning decision.”

The Chiltern Firehouse opened in the Manchester Square Fire Station, which was built in 1889 and shut in 2005 during cutbacks by City Hall when Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London.

It was used as an exhibition space but was eventually transformed into a 26-suite hotel and 200-capacity restaurant in 2013.

Owner Andre Balazs, in a letter to neighbours about the scheme, said: “We plan to open a new outside café seating area on Chiltern Street on land within the ownership of Chiltern Firehouse. This new café offering takes its inspiration from chic Parisian cafés and will enhance the existing character of the neighbourhood.

“The new seating area will be by the old fire station doors where we have the advantage of a very wide footpath to allow walkers to carry on unhindered, unless they want to stop in for a cup of coffee or glass of rosé in the sunshine.

“All tables and chairs will be removed at night to avoid attracting any unwanted behaviour.”

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