In this month, Nigel Hughes, Estate Surveyor at Grosvenor and Chairman of the Victoria BID, gives us insights on the challenges Victoria faces in the future, his favourite spots and where you might find him enjoying lunch.
How long have you worked in Victoria?
I started working in Victoria, or at the edges of Victoria, 31 years ago, but I’ve been working with Victoria BID for about 8 years.
What’s your favourite spot in Victoria?
Part of Victoria’s appeal is its accessibility to other places. What do I like in Victoria? I suppose I am more of a traditionalist then a modernist, so I like the Grosvenor Hotel as a Grade ll* listed building. I like Victoria Square, which is a little bit of a hidden gem, just behind the Victoria BID offices and I like the little quirky things like Little Ben, which has just been returned to its island site, fully refurbished. There is always something happening in Victoria. It’s the vitality and diversity of Victoria that appeals.
What is your favourite lunchtime place?
Boisdale in Eccleston Street, La Poule au Pot in Ebury Street or the Thomas Cubitt in Elizabeth Street if I’m being loyal to Belgravia, but I think it’s going to be so exciting in Victoria with so many new restaurants coming into Nova. I suspect, if you ask in a year’s time, my preferences may have moved closer to Victoria. The Goring Hotel though, with its Michelin Star, will no doubt always remain a favourite for that special occasion.
What was the biggest change you have experienced in Victoria?
It has to be the huge scale of redevelopment works in Victoria Street and the transformation of Victoria from a place you travel through to a place where you want to stay – whether to work, to shop or to live.
If you could change one thing in Victoria, what would it be?
It would be the congestion and the amount of traffic that goes through Victoria, the amount of pollution that is caused as a result and the difficulty that it creates for pedestrians and cyclists. If I could change two things, I would also like to find a way that would remove the need for the homeless to be sleeping rough on the streets of Victoria.
What is your favourite story about Victoria?
The site of Victoria station, when it was owned by the Grosvenor family, used to be known as Grosvenor Dock before it became Victoria Station. In the early 19th century, Belgravia was marshland, and Thomas Cubitt, who was the master builder instructed by the Grosvenor family to develop Belgravia, in addition to having a contract from Sir Robert Grosvenor to drain the marshes, also had a contract to excavate the Royal Docks. In a stroke of genius, Cubitt built a brickworks to burn the clay in Belgravia to create bricks for his new development (for which he got paid); he excavated the Royal Docks (for which he got paid) and he then carried the spoil from the Royal Docks to the Grosvenor Dock where he then spread the spoil over `Belgravia to raise the levels – and got paid again! Not long afterwards in the 1840’s and having served its purpose for Cubitt, Grosvenor Dock was compulsorily purchased to become the site of the new Victoria Station.
What is your message for the people out there in Victoria?
My message would be, thank you. Thank you, for tolerating what has been a pretty difficult time in Victoria with all the redevelopment works in Victoria Street and the Victoria Station Upgrade. The end is almost in sight with Nova due for completion this year, VSU in 2018 to be followed by improvements in Terminus Place. In the words of the old British Rail slogan “we’re getting there”!
What is the biggest issue/ challenge Victoria is facing in the future?
At the moment, improving air quality is a London wide issue – if you can improve air quality you improve peoples’ wellbeing and you make the area better for everyone, whether they are working in or travelling through Victoria. But while air quality is very high up the agenda, for Victoria specifically, improving Victoria Station is a priority. It isn’t fit for purpose for the huge and ever increasing numbers of passengers passing through and it is a priority for London that it is made fit for the 21st century.
Our next Cup of Tea with….will be with James Breed from the Metropolitan Police and be out next month. To stay up to date with everything going on in Victoria follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or sign up to our newsletter here.Back to our news Top