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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Fans cheer as London's India Club is saved from closure

Historic meeting place for Indians in London saved from demolition

The  Westminster Council planning panel unanimously rejected the landlord's attempt to redesign the layout of the historic India Club in central London. Chris J Ratcliff / AFP Photo 
The  Westminster Council planning panel unanimously rejected the landlord's attempt to redesign the layout of the historic India Club in central London. Chris J Ratcliff / AFP Photo 

Among its founders was Jawaharlal Nehru, the founding prime minister of his nation, and campaigners for its survival have included a whos who of the British establishment.

A self-depicted time warp, the India Club on The Strand in central London is a venerable curry house that exists as a unchanging link to the country’s imperial heyday.

And its backers were celebrating on Wednesday after planning officials blocked a redevelopment application that would have seen it close its doors after more than 65 years in business.

A Westminster Council planning panel rejected the landlord's attempt to redesign the layout of the property, a move that would have resulted in the eviction of the wood-panelled lounge and restaurant. “Westminster council refused permission for the redevelopment of 143-145 Strand due the potential loss of an important cultural venue located on its site, the India Club,” said Councillor Tony Devenish, chairman of Westminster’s planning applications sub-committee. “The India Club has a special place in the history of our Indian community and it is right that we protect it from demolition.”

Phiroza Marker, the daughter of owner Yadgar, expressed relief at the decision, saying it was an acknowledgment of the institution’s role in Britain’s multi-cultural history.

“We are delighted that Westminster council has refused an application that would have seen a unique and iconic piece of London’s history disappear,” she said. “We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received with over 26,000 people signing our petition in support of the India Club. Thank you to each and every one of our supporters who have contributed to the collective voice on the unique significance of the India Club.”

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Krishna Menon, India's first High Commissioner to the UK after independence, launched the club as a meeting place for the new community in the former imperial capital.

Among those who spoke up for its preservation was the prominent novelist Will Self. He told a newspaper last year that the charm of the spot was it was "beautifully old-fashioned... like one in 1950s India”.

Its situation means the India Club has been a haunt of Whitehall officials and diplomats for decades. The historic link to the India League make it the last residue of a historic movement. “The India Club is a time warp that resonates with the atmosphere of those who forged ties of friendship between India and Britain after independence,” said Simon Wilson, the former deputy high commissioner in Calcutta told the local newspaper last month. “We should be celebrating this diversity not destroying it be allowing it to fall to modern development. It deserves to be saved.”

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