A Chinese billionaire has been granted planning permission to construct an eight-storey, 5,760-sq metre (62,000-sq-ft) private palace overlooking Hyde Park, central London.
Westminster city council granted Cheung Chung-kiu, a Hong Kong-based property tycoon, permission to partly demolish and reconstruct 2-8A Rutland Gate, in Knightsbridge, in order to create his vast new home, which experts said could be worth up to £500m when completed.
The council’s decision to allow the project to go ahead comes just months after it imposed a ban on new “Monopoly board-style” residences so as to free up space for more affordable homes.
Westminster council said it was unable to stop this project going ahead as the site had previously been a single dwelling and planning rules allowed it to be replaced. The council also confirmed that Cheung would not be obliged to contribute to the construction of any affordable homes in the borough, as is the case with most large-scale private property developments.
A spokesperson for Westminster council said “This year the council introduced a policy which will prevent the construction of new homes over 200 sq metres. This policy does not apply to the redevelopment of existing single dwellings. Building the right type of homes for people to live in is a priority for the council and Westminster has delivered over 725 new affordable homes since 2017.”
In the building application for Cheung his agent said the property was “heavily dilapidated” and that he would like to “undertake works of repair, refurbishment and alteration to return the building into beneficial use as their London family home”.
The property had previously been a 45-bedroom home owned by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, of Saudi Arabia, who died in 2011. The house is just south of Kensington Gardens and 68 of its 116 windows have a park view. The interiors were created by the French designer Alberto Pinto.
Cheung bought the property, which was built in the 1830s as a terrace of four grand family homes, for £205m this year in a deal making it the most expensive property ever sold in the UK. Estate agents have estimated that it could easily cost £100m to reconstruct and redevelop the building, which is scheduled to include several tonnes of marble.
Cheung, who is known to his friends as CK, is estimated to have a personal fortune of between £1bn and £1.5bn. He is chairman of the property development company CC Land, which bought the City skyscraper known as the Cheesegrater for £1.15bn in 2017. CC Land also owns a stake in Whiteleys shopping centre in Bayswater, and sponsored the Pierre Bonnard exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2019.
The plans (pdf), which were voted through unanimously at a Westminster planning committee meeting on 20 July, show the property will have a triple-height ballroom and a two-level basement for Cheung’s collection of luxury cars.
The property, which has lain vacant for at least 10 years, previously was granted planning permission to be converted into 13 flats.
To help free up more space for affordable homes in London, Westminster council in 2018 announced plans to ban new supersize properties built for overseas billionaires. The ban came into force earlier this year but does not apply to the redevelopment of existing houses.
Richard Beddoe, the councillor who was in charge of planning, said at the time: “We want Westminster to be home to thriving, mixed communities, not empty super-prime properties. That’s why we will be restricting the size of new luxury apartments and introducing a new extra-bedroom policy to make it easier for families to extend their homes so they have enough space to stay living in Westminster and are not forced to move out.”