- Plans to build hundreds of affordable homes on exclusive London street
Architects have drawn up plans to fill an abandoned site on London’s Billionaires Row with 300 homes – as property developers turn the street’s huge mansions into luxury flats and retirement complexes.
Designs by leading firms Mae and RCKa show there is room for hundreds of affordable properties in the area, located on one of the capital’s most expensive streets – and could even include a new arts centre.
According to the Guardian, the current owner of the three-hectare Bishop Avenue site is an Isle of Man-registered company, whose beneficial owner is listed as a Cypriot businessman who gives a Dubai address.
The families will live next to mansions that some of the world’s wealthiest people have called home – including the Sultan of Brunei, Justin Bieber and Saudi royalty.
The architects were appointed by the Guardian to highlight the lack of affordable housing in the UK, and plans will not be submitted for development.
It comes as parts of London’s poshest avenue now resemble a busy construction site, with workers in boots and high-vis jackets scurrying about while huge construction vehicles move along it, causing Its good residents become angry.
Read more: Bulldozer on billionaires’ row: How huge mansions on one of London’s most expensive streets are being replaced with flats and retirement homes
The site, known to locals as ‘The Towers’ and believed to have been abandoned for decades, was owned by British actress and music hall legend Gracie Fields before it was demolished in the 1970s.
After the actress and singer left the estate, the land was divided up – being used as a maternity annex for the North Middlesex Hospital and resulting in a Jewish care home called Heinrich Stahl House.
The existing mansion then replaced it and was reportedly snapped up by the Saudi royal family for an estimated £25 million during the Gulf War.
The imaginary development in London’s grandest street – which was commissioned by the Guardian – highlights how ordinary Britons are paying the price of expensive developments.
Applications are set for the site The once huge mansion has been transformed into 65 residential flats within a new building that can rise up to six storeys high – plus a basement level.
The proposals have been recommended for approval, although the planning committee has asked them to conduct further archaeological survey.
But the plans do not include any affordable housing – the developer will pay Barnet Council £1.5 million so they can build it elsewhere
This payment is expected to be equivalent to one of their 65 offered flats.
The site is reported to be owned by an Isle of Man registered company linked to a Cypriot businessman based in Dubai.
Social Value Director of architecture firm RCKA Russell Curtis told The Guardian: ‘Is it right that there should be this kind of unused land in a very expensive part of London?
‘At the moment we don’t have the policy powers to do anything about it.’
He claimed that his design for 300 homes would relieve Bishop Avenue’s current ‘really unpleasant atmosphere where everything is gated’.
Right next to the site, property developer Valorn is currently working on a £200 million development to convert the Oak Lodge mansion damaged in a fire last year into a block of 30 flats.
Developer Riverstone is building 96 retirement flats in the vacant Barons Court mansion, which is due to open in 2025, the report said.
The mile-long tree-lined street of Bishops Avenue has at least 66 mansions and is home to some of the richest people in the world.
The properties on Up Market Road are collectively said to be worth up to £350 million.
Read more: Forgotten castles: Multimillion-pound homes in London’s billionaires’ row, left to rot and collapse by their absentee owners
But the image of the street has changed over the past decade, as derelict properties have been left to decay.
‘Bishop Avenue is an area that they are always developing because a lot of the owners of the houses are overseas sellers, some of them don’t even come back to the UK so the houses get very old and start to fall into disrepair and then end up Going to sell them,’ said an estate agent.
Property developer Valorn is currently working on a £200 million development to convert the Oak Lodge mansion damaged in a fire last year into a block of 30 flats.
The cause of the fire at the £18 million disused mansion remains a mystery because the building was so badly damaged, investigators said.
In June 2022 a fire broke out in the house – believed to have been vacant for 30 years – destroying the roof as well as the first and ground floors.
At the time, a representative of the London Fire Brigade said: ‘The cause of the fire has been recorded as uncertain due to the level of damage caused to the building.
‘It was so badly damaged that it was not possible for our fire investigators to determine what started it.’
Oak Lodge was the subject of a planning controversy in 2018 when developers wanted to demolish it and build a massive 18-apartment Beverly Hills-style block for the mega-rich.
It was sold in the same year to 54 Bishop Avenue Ltd, a separate holding company under the architectural firm Pilbrow & Partners, for £18 million, with Bahraini businessman Mohammed Mahdi Al Tajir listed as a director.
Two years later, new plans for the site were approved by Barnet Council, in which the listed building, which dates back to 1927, would be renovated and divided into two houses rather than demolished.
This planning permission included a total of 30 individual new homes on the site which was approved on 28 February 2020.
Parts of London’s poshest avenue now resemble a busy construction site surrounded by mud and water, with workers in boots and high-vis jackets scurrying about while huge construction vehicles roll along it, drowning its affluent residents. Get worried.
Jenny, who gave only her first name, has lived on The Bishops Avenue for 20 years.
She told MailOnline she is troubled by the changing landscape of the street she has called home for two decades. “What is happening is disgusting,” she said. It is mainly flats that are being built and although they are not cheap, it has transformed the area and brought in a different type of residents. ‘Bishops Avenue is not as exclusive as it used to be.’
Someone said, ‘The whole area has become a mess.’ ‘Earlier, we had the problem of abandoned houses and now we have found builders everywhere. There is mud all over the road and there is a lot of noise.