View of existing Selkirk House at One Museum Street.
The existing Selkirk House (Travelodge building) as seen from New Oxford Street. Image: Planning application submitted by Simten/BC Parners.

Actor and heritage campaigner Griff Rhys Jones and architect Simon Sturgis are backing a campaign calling for the refurbishment of an empty 53m high hotel building at One Museum Street near the British Museum instead of replacing it with a 74m high tower.

Rhys Jones said the proposal by developers BC Partners and their architects DSDHA was “pushing the envelope” and was too tall, causing harm to the Bloomsbury conservation area.

Developers Simten on behalf of BC Partners submitted a planning application in June to knock down the 17-storey high Selkirk House, which was used as a Travelodge hotel, and demolish several buildings on a block bounded by Museum and West Central streets to create space for 1,700 office workers and 44 homes.

The proposed tower block would be 20m taller than the existing Selkirk House.

The new tower proposed by Simten and BC Partners.
The proposed new tower block after the demolition of Selkirk House. Image: Planning application submitted by Simten/BC Parners.

Rhys Jones is president of the Victorian Society and Civic Voice, which represents amenity societies, and said the plans “will really dominate this conservation area in this important part of London.”

He said the alternative design drawn up by MBH Architects for the Save Museum Street (SMS) coalition “represents the future”.

Save Museum Street campaign  proposes retrofitting instead of demolition.
Save Museum Street’s alternative vision for the One Museum Street site. Image: Save Museum Street.

The campaign has also succeeded in getting nearby buildings Grade II-listed, but Historic England rejected their request to list a historic stable block on West Central Street, which is now in danger of being demolished under Simten and BC Partners’ plans.

BC Partners bought the buildings from Labtech in 2022 and have submitted a revised planning application.

Rhys Jones said that retrofitting, rather than demolishing an existing building, “is something that is important to our heritage, our thinking, our piece of mind.”

He said planning authority Camden Council “needs to listen to the green arguments about embodied carbon” and challenge the idea that London needs a further 24,000sqm of office space and “the myth is that this creates jobs”.

Instead, he said it could see businesses leave other office blocks and could create a knock-on effect seeing the vacated buildings redeveloped.

Alice Brown from Climate Emergency Camden said it was necessary to “retain existing buildings” rather than build new in the urgent race to reduce carbon emissions.

Simten and BC Partners said their plans will be “built for longevity, adaptability and sustainability.”

They said they would refurbish buildings where possible but Selkirk House and some of the buildings on West Central Street “were found to be not suitable for repurposing, but it is our intention to reuse existing elements where possible.”

They have also amended plans, keeping the listed buildings and lowering the proposed height of the redevelopment of Ten Museum Street, near the tower block.

Simten and BC Partners said they have also consulted residents and changes include reducing the proposed height of the new tower block by 6m to 74m, instead of 79m.

The Save Museum Street group with Simon Sturgis (third from left) and Grff-Rhys Jones (centre). Photo: Julia Gregory, LDR.

SMS said its alternative plan is better for the environment because it proposes to retrofit rather than demolish the existing buildings.

Their scheme would lower the existing tower by 3m, creating a roof top garden which could “get the most fantastic views and generate tourism,” said Jim Monahan of who presented the alternative design for SMS.

He proposed using the top two floors as flats and transforming the car park into rehearsal studios for the nearby theatre industry.

The campaign’s design also includes linking up with the “secret” post office railway which runs directly under the building with the current Mail Rail tourist attraction at the Postal Museum.

Kathy Doyle, from the campaign, said Simten and BC Partners’ scheme is “appalling” and that the group needs to get objections to the plans which have been submitted to Camden Council.

Planning application: Redevelopment of Selkirk House, 166 High Holborn and 1 Museum Street; part-demolition and refurbishment to 10-12 Museum Street, 35-41 New Oxford Street, and 16A-18 West Central Street. To comment, email: with Reference: 2023/2510/P and 2023/2653/L and cc and cc

An Alternative Proposal: Presented by Save Museum Street: