City of London approves plan for Kingsway Tunnels underground attraction

How the Kingsway Tunnels could look (London Tunnels Ltd)
How the Kingsway Tunnels could look (London Tunnels Ltd)

The transformation of a set of tunnels under High Holborn into a tourist attraction is underway after the plans were approved by the City of London.

The Kingsway Tunnels, originally built beneath Chancery Lane tube station to shelter thousands of Londoners from the Blitz during World War II, cover around 7,000 square metres.

As the threat of mass enemy bombing receded, they were used by the wartime government as a secret telecommunications centre and base for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) which parachuted agents behind enemy lines after being instructed by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”.

The Kingsway Tunnels while used by BT (Getty Images)
The Kingsway Tunnels while used by BT (Getty Images)

They were then taken over by British Telecom and closed in the early 1980s.

Plans submitted by London Tunnels Ltd include demolishing an office block and an empty building on Furnival Street which would be re-built and linked together to form the entrance to the site as well as having a gift shop and office space.

Members on the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee approved the plans on Tuesday, but because the site crosses over the city boundary to Camden it will also need their approval before work starts.

Committee chairman Shravan Joshi said: “I am incredibly excited by these plans and hope that LB Camden feels the same way. At the City of London,we are delivering a thriving, sustainable Square Mile, through a combination of business growth and celebration of our local heritage.

“The new and exciting heritage, arts and culture activity that this scheme has the potential to deliver, will enliven the local streets and venues.

“As we work to transform the Square Mile into a seven-day-a-week destination, developments like the one proposed for the Kingsway Tunnel site will become global attractions for a variety of visitors, which are projected to rise substantially.”

James Bond and the proposed Kingsway Tunnels (ES Composite)
James Bond and the proposed Kingsway Tunnels (ES Composite)

Among the proposals for the tunnels is an exhibition dedicated to James Bond as well as subjects including World War II and the Cold War.

Developers also say they are looking at “partnerships with historical and heritage institutions within London” including the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum and the Museum of London.

The tunnels could become the latest cultural site in the City which is increasingly marketing itself as a centre for art and entertainment as it triesto move away from its traditional reliance on financial services.

Other plans at various stages of development include the new London Museum at West Smithfield, a new Migration Museum at Tower Hill and a new visitor attraction on the site of the original Roman forum.