Major hotel group interested in WW2 sea forts project


Plans for one of the most innovative hotel projects in recent years emerged last month, as developers look at transforming a set of unoccupied WW2 sea forts into a luxury hotel complex. Would it work and would it be viable? We spoke to David Marriot Cooper, in charge of the epic project to find out more.

A set of World War Two sea forts in the Thames Estuary could be transformed into a new luxury hotel, complete with executive apartments, a helipad and a spa at sea.

The structure, named Red Sands, was constructed in 1943 during the Second World War, built originally to help defend the UK from Nazi attack. The metal Maunsell gun towers main purpose during this time was to shoot down Nazi aircraft and doodlebugs, as well as attack German mine-laying ships.

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Now the abandoned wartime relics – seven miles off the coast of Whitstable in Kent – could be completely repurposed and turned into a futuristic luxury hotel, with spa, leisure centre and executive apartments.

Retired businessman David Marriot Cooper is leading the project after being approached by the charity Project Redsand, which manages the site, to come up with a way to preserve the forts.

He said: “I came up with the idea of a hotel, leisure and museum complex and the idea was well-received. I approached architects and hotel planners and now the wheels are in motion.”

Mr Cooper has written to hotel developers and the Port of London Authority and Crown Estates to see if his idea is viable and of interest.

In June, Cooper had a meeting with the chairman of one of the world’s largest hotel management, consulting and financial groups who has 40 years experience in the industry, who described the project as one of the most “exciting and iconic ideas for a hotel development he has ever seen”.

The fortresses were designed by Guy Maunsell and assembled after the main London Blitz happened. Each of the seven towers of Red Sands, placed approximately six miles off Minster, Isle of Sheppy over the period of July 23 to September 3 1943, became home to 265 men from the navy and army.

The Forts were decommissioned by the Ministry of Defence in 1956 and used by pirate radio stations in the 1960s, but have remained unoccupied ever since.

Cooper was originally worried about what condition the Forts would be in, but these fears soon evaporated when he visited, he says they were “as solid as the day they were built.”

Crown Estates own the structure and consequently hold the key to any future development; it is thought that the company will lease ownership to the charity Redsands Project for 99 years, who will then lease ownership to a hotel developer.

Cooper’s discussions with a major hotel developer threw up some interesting results. The chairman of the leading group suggested that the cost of the project would be between £35/£44m to create a complex with 44 bedrooms, consisting of both standard, penthouse and executive suites. There would also be space for a restaurant and a health spa.

Guests would be transported to the gun towers by helicopter or hovercraft from St Katherine’s Dock in London, Southend-on-Sea or Whitstable.

The chairman also predicted that if the hotel reached a steady 75% occupancy rate it could return around £12m per year, including revenue made from the restaurant and function rooms.