City of London backs multi-million pound plan for Migration Museum in heart of capital

The proposed Migration Museum  (Handout)
The proposed Migration Museum (Handout)

A multi-million pound plan to build a new home for the Migration Museum in the heart of the City has been approved.

The City of London Corporation’s Planning Applications Sub-Committee approved the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday.

The museum, currently in a temporary home in Lewisham, will be based across three floors of a 21-storey tower near Tower Hill after refugee-turned property developer Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia promised them the space rent-free for 60 years.

The proposed museum (Handout)
The proposed museum (Handout)

Mr Ahluwalia, who founded his firm Dominus in 2011 having fled Idi Amin’s Uganda as a child, has also pledged to cover its operating costs for three years and has donated £500,000 to support its fund-raising campaign to pay for the move.

The firm, led by brothers Husnell, Preet, and Jay Ahluwalia, currently has 16 projects in development and has been involved in building everything from hotels to homes.

Jay Ahluwalia said the firm would “draw on all our experience in hospitality to show we really understand what makes a successful student development, not just for those living there, but for the community as a whole”.

He added: “When we started out back in 2011, the goal was to build a real estate business that wasn’t only scalable and fast-growing, but was philanthropic at heart, going above and beyond to improve people’s lives.

“Today, everything we do for the business as brothers is driven by this idea, and the desire to create places and spaces that make a positive contribution to cities and communities across the UK.”

The scheme at 65 Crutched Friars also includes exhibition and event space, a cafe and shop, and rooms for more than 700 students above that.

City of London Corporation Planning Applications Sub-Committee Chairman Shravan Joshi said: “This development will bring new life to the eastern part of the City and an economic boost to the Square Mile.

“As a melting pot of different nationalities and backgrounds, the City is a fitting home for the Migration Museum as it celebrates diversity and inclusion. This is a key part of the City’s success so we are proud to provide a permanent home for the Migration Museum given its national significance. It will also add to our existing cultural offer and support our Destination City vision to make the Square Mile a seven-day-a-week visitor destination.

“We carefully considered, including through an independent review, the possibility of retaining this site for office use, whether through refurbishing or rebuilding, but our conclusion was that such a scheme would not be financially viable, therefore a change of use was appropriate in this case.”

Museum CEO Sophie Henderson said she was “delighted” by the decision.

She added: “We are creating Britain’s missing museum, exploring how the movement of people to and from the City, London and the UK has shaped who we all are today – as individuals, as communities and as nations. And there is no more fitting location for the Migration Museum than in the heart of the City of London, Britain’s gateway to the world for thousands of years.

“The Migration Museum will be an inspiring venue for diverse audiences from across the City, London and beyond to come together to explore, discuss and reflect on key questions around migration, identity and belonging; a go-to destination for schools, a resonant setting for training and skills-building and a relevant, welcoming space for a host of activities for the many communities we serve."

The new development will also see the creation of a new public courtyard fronting onto Northumberland Alley and a new ‘pocket park’ in Rangoon Street.