DSDHA Holborn scheme approved in the face of strong opposition

The planning committee approved the practice’s plans to demolish and redevelop Selkirk House at One Museum Street, a 17-storey former Travelodge near the British Museum in Holborn, yesterday (16 November).

DSDHA’s proposals involve demolishing the empty ex-Travelodge to erect a 19-storey building providing 16,700 workspace, 44 homes, and additional flexible space.

The design will go ahead despite a major campaign against the plans, including objections from Historic England and SAVE Britain’s Heritage, on environmental and heritage-impact grounds.

The Save Museum Street campaign, backed by TV presenter Griff Rhys Jones and architect Simon Sturgis, proposed retrofitting the 53m-high hotel building, instead of replacing it with a new 74m office block.

In a series of posts on X in August, SAVE Britain’s Heritage described DSDHA’s proposals as ‘yet more plans for a corporate office block’ which would mean ‘further harm to [the] heritage of Bloomsbury’. 

DSDHA says its scheme will retain ‘a quarter of the existing structure of Selkirk House through reuse of the basement and foundations’.


DSDHA’s latest plans for Selkirk House and two neighbouring buildings (June 2023). Source: DSDHA

Planning officers at Camden had recommended the workspace-led scheme for approval, concluding in a report to the committee: ‘The only parts of Selkirk House that could, in principle, be retained (floors 4-13) comprise just 25 per cent of the overall structure (by weight).’

They added that it would be ‘difficult and costly’ to retain just this part of the building.

Officers said retention of the buildings ‘would require substantial works to bring the building up to modern hotel standards, or to convert to residential, particularly in terms of meeting fire safety standards’, adding that DSDHA’s proposal creates ‘the most efficient use of land’.

Elsewhere in the report, officers praised the ‘high-quality architecture’ of DSDHA’s proposal, which they said would have a positive impact on urban design, with a new ‘open, publicly accessible, mixed-use ground plane with active ground floor frontages, newly shaped public spaces and a new route connecting West Central Street and High Holborn’.

The Save Museum Street counter-proposals, developed by MBH Architects, led by Jim Monahan, a long-term opponent of the DSDHA project, were unveiled in August and backed by more than two dozen groups.

They involved retrofitting the entire building and providing new office space, homes, and a rooftop garden and tourist information point.

Monahan previously told the AJ that Camden Council’s ‘credentials with regard to its so-called climate emergency policies’ would be ‘in complete shreds’ if it granted the scheme consent, adding such claims would be rendered ‘completely ridiculous’.

He said there had been a groundswell of opposition in the area after a number of unpopular developments in the past few years.

DSDHA has defended its scheme, arguing that the 44 homes ‘represent a doubling of the residential on site’, which will replace ‘existing, poor-quality homes that have been unoccupied for a number of years’ with ‘a high proportion of affordable homes [77 per cent of additional homes by floorspace]’.

The firm added that the scheme was ‘designed to be sympathetic to the Bloomsbury conservation area’ and ‘sensitively mixes old and new, restoring the historic facades and interiors of five listed buildings and returning three of them to their original form of townhouses above shops’.

The practice’s founding director David Hills said: ‘Our approved design provides key improvements to public spaces and a sensitively designed workplace destination.

‘The development will include retail and leisure facilities at street level, as well as new and refurbished homes and better and safer pedestrian routes.’

As the development includes a building of more than 30m high, Camden will not have the final decision on the scheme, with the Mayor of London able to overrule it.

Pending the Mayor’s approval, construction is expected to start on the scheme next year with completion due in 2028.

Project data 

Location Museum Street, Bloomsbury
Local authority Camden Council
Type of project Workspace-led mixed-use development
Client BC Partners, site-owners, and Simten, development manager
Architect DSDHA
Landscape architect DSDHA / Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape
Planning consultant Iceni Projects
Structural engineer Heyne Tillett Steel
M&E consultant Scotch Partners / Heyne Tillett Steel
Quantity surveyor Turner & Townsend alinea
Principal designer iM2
Main contractor TBC
Tender date TBC
Start on site date 2024
Completion date 2028
Contract duration TBC
Gross internal floor area m² Not available
Form of contract and/or procurement TBC
Annual CO2 emissions TBC
Total cost Not available
Visuals DSDHA/MillerHare


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