Architect gets the go-ahead to convert vaults beneath historic London bridge into restaurant

A vault under London’s Putney Bridge is to be turned into a subterranean restaurant by architect Jean Oh.

Oh says Alan Nurunnabi, who owns the vault and the building above at 2 Putney High Street, approached her for the project last April. The project was awarded planning permission by Wandsworth Council last month.

The proposals involve refurbishing the derelict building, which has been vacant for at least ten years, and extending the restaurant into vaults that stretch north under Lower Richmond Road to the Thames wall.

The space for the restaurant is about 20m by 6m. A new arched opening with granite voussoirs will be created in the river wall to provide access from the restaurant on to Waterman’s Green on the Putney Embankment. A spokesman for Wandsworth Council says that the site’s owner intends to make a separate application to use a part of the green for outdoor seating.

Oh says, ’There aren’t many places in London where you can have a nice restaurant by the river. It’s going to be quite special.’

She adds, ’Technically, it’s quite complicated. We have had to put floodgates in. The space was originally built to support the road, so we’ve had to dig it out and raise the floor slightly.’

The proposal includes a planning application and an application for listed building consent. The council’s planning committee approved both on 6 January 2010.

There are two other vaults next to the 2 Putney High Street space, although a spokesman for Wandsworth Council says he understands planning permission has not been sought nor granted to work on these.

Wandsworth planning applications chairman Nick Cuff says, ’Few people are even aware of the vaults below Lower Richmond Road, which are part of the listed bridge structure.

’Converting them into a restaurant space is an exciting prospect and would give people the chance to experience these unusual subterranean spaces.’

Oh says it is hoped work will begin within the next few months, and that the schedule is for the project to be completed in about eight months.

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