Wednesday, 29 June 2011
London's Most Incredible Home for the Super Rich Billionaires
Soon its name will join the ranks of Britain's great stately homes. Already, in the most elite of circles, it is being whispered in awe: 'Witanhurst.
The residents of London's Highgate certainly do, for this mammoth property has caused an ongoing row, as planners have repeatedly rejected lavish plans for its development. The Georgian-style mansion is London's second-largest private residence, after Buckingham Palace.But following a short-lived renaissance in 2002 as home to the BBC's Fame Academy, it had been allowed to decay.
Local developer Marcus Cooer bought Witanhurst for £32 million from an Arab family, vowing to spend millions on restoration and put it back on the market for £150 million. Months later, it was back on the market, untouched, for £75 million. Then matters took a more mysterious turn. When the house was sold again three years ago, the new owners put in plans for an ambitious overhaul, including a three-storey glass pavilion. These were initially rejected, but amended plans were allowed on appeal. Locals have strenuously objected, claiming it will ruin the character of the neighbourhood.
A borehole system, driven deep into the ground, will heat the house, using the Earth's warmth.Documents lodged with Camden council show that the main house will remain largely the same, except for the demolition of a 20th-century wing, which will be replaced by a super-sized 'orangery'. Work is due to be finished in autumn 2012. Mystery shrouds the mansion, however. For despite being the size of ten generously sized detached homes, nobody knows who owns it. Indeed, it is said that even Robert Adam, the celebrated architect behind this extraordinary project, does not know who his client is.
He receives his instructions via an intricate web of companies and advisers, designed to give the owner absolute anonymity.So just what is Witanhurst and who is behind it? It is perched above North London, on the verdant hill of Highgate, an ancient village that is one of the capital’s most sought-after addresses.Overlooking Hampstead Heath, the area once was home to the highwayman Dick Turpin and philosopher Karl Marx is buried in the nearby Victorian cemetery.
Today, celebrities including Sting, Bob Hoskins, Jude Law and Ulrika Jonsson have chosen the area as their base.Witanhurst stands in six acres of woodland, commanding some of the best views in London.Who is behind the renovation, then? In 2008, it was reported that Yelena Baturina, the wife of Yury Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow, and a billionaire in her own right, had bought the property for £50 million. She denies this.A controversial figure in Russia, the construction tycoon has also fought off accusations of corruption.
Who is behind the renovation, then? In 2008, it was reported that Yelena Baturina, the wife of Yury Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow, and a billionaire in her own right, had bought the property for £50 million. Baturina, 48, who already has a home in London’s Holland Park, which accommodates her extensive art collection, is known for grand schemes.When she failed to find a school for her two daughters, Elena, 19, and Olga, 17, she built her own, complete with state-of-the-art security. Despite being the richest woman in Russia, she denies owning Witanhurst.
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