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Squash players lose out in Mayfair’s new-look RAF Club

Historic: the frontage of the private members’ RAF Club in Piccadilly

Historic: the frontage of the private members’ RAF Club in Piccadilly

Published: 30 September, 2016
by ALINA POLIANSKAYA

HISTORIC squash courts will be demolished so the Royal Air Force Club can expand its private members’ hotel operation.

The RAF Club has won its application to Westminster Council to transform the Grade II-listed premises in Piccadilly, Mayfair. 

Objections from squash players had flooded in with many criticising the proposal to demolish the courts, which have been inside the building for almost 100 years, and build a six-storey block with 17 bedrooms as a “travesty” and a “tragic waste”. 

One objection to the council planning department said: “It would be a travesty if the RAF squash courts were eliminated. The history and tradition of these courts are essential to the continuation of the spirit and ethos of the RAF Club.” Another added: “Squash courts are decreasing in number and disappearing in London. The RAF squash courts are particularly characterful and it would be a great shame to lose them.”

The courts are used by RAF members and their guests but are a “non-standard” size. Players use them for Bath Cup matches, which is believed to be the oldest squash league in the world. 

The overwhelming maj­o­rity of people responding to the application were in favour of having more rooms at the club and more than 280 wrote in  support of the application.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Ruth Bush, who is on the planning committee, said: “It’s not a good habit to get into to go around getting rid of things that have been there for a long time and have got a strand of historical interest.” When she saw the designs, she said “my heart sank, absolutely sank”. The new building is going to be “ugly, dreary, dull and miserable beyond belief – and it’s going to be attached to a listed building”. 

Chief executive and club secretary Miles Pooley said: “Following overwhelming member de­mand for additional accommodation and facilities, a planning application to redevelop areas of the existing building at 128 Piccadilly was submitted to Westminster City Council in June 2016.

“Various options were considered by the club’s trustees and management team, however the proposal submitted was the most likely to benefit the majority of the membership with the creation of 17 additional bedrooms, fitness area and a business centre. “We are delighted that the planning application has been approved to enable us to move to the next phase of the project, bringing us one step closer to enhancing the club’s accommodation and facilities as it moves towards its 100th year in 2018.”

The club has around 24,000 members and provides bedroom accommodation, dining, function rooms and social events.

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