Monday, December 11, 2017

The multi-millionaire owner of Classic FM has had his plans to combine two Knightsbridge penthouses into one of the world’s most valuable flats thwarted.

Westminster council’s planning committee tonight ruled that radio tycoon Ashley Tabor, 40, would not be allowed to convert his two flats in The Knightsbridge – one of London’s most expensive apartment blocks – into a single 10-bedroom super-flat with a cinema, “service” and family kitchens and a butler’s pantry.

The Council voted against the proposal because it would result in the net loss of housing in the borough at a time when it is under pressure to increase their number of homes.

“It’s not a badge of honour to have the world’s most expensive property in our borough. It is unconscionable to accept this kind of proposal when we face a pressing housing shortage,” said Westminster councillor Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning and public realm.

“The council wants to create more housing. This kind of proposal means we have to run faster simply to stay still.”

Mr Tabor is the founder of Global Radio which includes Classic FM, LBC, Heart, and Capital. He was awarded an OBE for services to the media industry in this summer’s Queen’s birthday honours.

In 2006 he spent £15.2 million on a four-bedroom apartment at The Knightsbridge. In May this year he bought a second, six-bedroom property for a reported £90 million. Stamp duty of £13.5 million pushes the second purchase above £100 million.

He promptly applied for permission to combine the two flats into a 15,000sq ft home, ten times the space in an average three-bedroom terrace house. It would create one of the most valuable apartments in the world.

A report by the council’s director of planning, John Walker acknowledged that on two prior occasions, in 2006 and 2010, the Council allowed two separate units to be merged into a single home. However, it said that a new planning policy had been adopted in November 2016.

Cllr Astaire said: ““We need a city that’s open, accessible and affordable to all those who need to live and work here.

“Our aim is to ensure fairness and opportunity in housing and we refuse to sell golden postcodes to the highest bidder. For the future, we intend to strengthen our policy to prevent this kind of loss of homes in the city.”

Mr Tabor has a two-year-old son and his planning consultants, Gerald Eve, described the project as being necessary to create a “large, modern family home where the family could live separately from guest accommodation and other more public areas of the house.”

However, Westminster said that rather than create a family-sized dwelling, combining the two properties would, in fact, result in the loss of a family-sized unit.

Mr Tabor has engaged the services of Christopher Lockhart-Mummery QC, a leading expert on planning law, who said that since there are “some 120,000 dwellings in Westminster” the loss of a single unit — or 0.0008 per cent of the total — would make no perceptible difference to the borough’s supply of housing.

He pointed to a series of cases where Westminster and other councils have allowed two homes to be merged into a single, large property.

But the council said more than 200 similar applications had been made in Westminster since 2013, leading to a potential loss of nearly 300 homes had they all been allowed.  

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