Westminster council has moved to ban the mega mansions favoured by oligarchs and billionaire businessmen in a bid to address the capital’s housing crisis.
The authority, which handles planning in the affluent areas of Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Mayfair, is set to outlaw homes larger than 1,615 sq ft (150 sq m).
It is part of a clampdown on ‘Monopoly board-style investments’, in which much-needed living space is being bought up by rich owners who in many cases are leaving the properties empty.
The move was announced this week as part of Westminster City Council’s new development plan, which promises to build upwards of 10,000 affordable units before 2040.
It is part of a drive to improve social and affordable housing in the area, where the average home sold for £957,000 in August.
Forbes House in Belgravia has been bought by a Qatari sheikh for around £150million but after adding a new swimming pool, cinema and garage it could be worth £300million – under new plans, such homes could not be built from scratch
Forbes House is spread over an acre of some of the country’s most valuable land sandwiched between Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park in central London
Up these magnificent staircases at Forbes House there will also be two floors for children, with games and TV room and two sitting rooms in the 50,000 sq ft super-mansion and ‘his and hers’ master bedroom suites on the floors below
The proposals would mean the end of large new build houses and high-end apartments, with developments like John Caudwell’s ultra-prime Audley Square project potentially impossible in the future.
At one point, plans for the block saw each penthouse have its own lift, gym and swimming pool and the largest, which would have been 13,401 sq ft, would value at more than £100million.
It would also make recent redevelopments like those on Avenue Road, near London Zoo, impossible.
Over the past decade a number of large homes on the tree-lined road were demolished and replaced with neo-classical mega-mansions, some of which are more than 20 times the size English home.
Planning proposals like those at Forbes House, a potential £300 million mega-mansion, could still get the go-ahead as they could be classified as ‘protecting a heritage asset’, despite measuring a gigantic 50,000 sq ft.
Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani is believed to have bought the six-storey pile in Belgravia for around £150million and will carry out a refurbishment expected to double its value.
Forbes House is spread over an acre of some of the country’s most valuable land sandwiched between Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park in central London.
Sheikh Thani, 57, who is worth around £1billion, already personally owns a large chunk of One Hyde Park – the Candy brothers’ luxurious apartment block in Knightsbridge.
Thani’s new Belgravia stately home has more than 20 bedrooms, a carriage driveway sweeping through its landscaped lawn and parking for 32 vehicles.
Earlier this year, Westminster Council rejected plans to convert a terrace of student houses measuring more than 100,000 sq ft into mansions worth £250million, with officers telling the developers they needed to ‘wake up’.
Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani, who is worth £1billion, is believed to have bought Forbes House from the Barclay brothers, with stamp duty alone probably reaching £20million
Developments such as 6 Buckingham Gate, located opposite Buckingham Palace, where residents are expected to pay £2.4million for a year, would likely have never got the go ahead by planners
The proposals would mean the end of large new build houses and high-end apartments, with developments like John Caudwell’s ultra-prime Audley Square project (pictured) in Mayfair potentially impossible in the future
Earlier this year, Westminster Council rejected plans to convert York Terrace East (pictured) into luxury mansions worth £250million, with council officers telling the developers they needed to ‘wake up’
Westbourne Capital Partners applied for permission to transform York Terrace East, near Regent’s Park, into 13 townhouses and mansions which were up to 15 times the size of the average property.
The largest home on the terrace would fail to meet the new criteria due to it measuring 17,000 sq ft, making it 18 times the size of the average home and worth more than £40 million.
However councillors voted down the plans, with chairman of planning Richard Beddoe adding: ‘Our city’s golden post codes must not be used for Monopoly-style investments to cater only for oligarchs and the most wealthy.’
Developments such as 6 Buckingham Gate, where would-be residents are expected to pay £2.4million for a year in rent, would likely have never got the go ahead by planners should they have been submitted after 2019.
The six-bedroom mansion opposite Buckingham Palace is spread over 15,850 sq ft and as such is valued at an eye-watering £76.5million.
The council’s proposals have been met with a mixed reaction from property professionals who operate in the area.
Henry Pryor, a buying agent and property commentator, said: ‘In the already crowded city it is hard for councils to meet targets to build new homes.
‘It is all about numbers rather than what is built and so more smaller homes helps the council to achieve their quotas.
‘No one could argue that Westminster is short of mansions so some sort of moratorium on new ones being built is unlikely to bother anyone except developers and estate agents.
‘It’s not how many we are building but what. Even in Westminster what is needed are homes for people who can’t afford to buy or rent homes currently and if that means one less mansion then I think this is a price worth paying.’
The Georgian mansion designed by Sir Robert Smirke – the creator of the British Museum – was an empty office block for years and not been occupied as a home since 1941.