The Qatari royal family’s property spree in London has been halted, for now, by a humble town hall bureaucrat, the Guardian reported.
The Gulf emirate’s sovereign wealth fund bought up Canary Wharf, the city’s second business district, for £2.6 billion (US$3.9 billion) with a Canadian partner this week, adding to its portfolio of the legendary retailer Harrods and the Shard skyscraper.
But the Qatari royals’ plan to create a British palace worth an estimated £200 million has been rejected by a planning officer at Westminster city council.
They had hoped to knock together two Grade I-listed mansions in Cornwall Terrace in Regent’s Park to create a lavish palace with 17 bedrooms, 14 lounges, four dining rooms, a swimming pool, a cigar lounge, a cinema and a juice bar.
But council officer Matthew Rees said no, citing the shortage of homes, in a dry official memo to the Qataris’ agents: “Your development would lead to the loss of a housing unit which would not meet S14 of Westminster’s City Plan: Strategic Policies adopted November 2013.”
With a note of finality, Rees wrote: “Negotiation could not overcome the reasons for refusal.”
Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labor group at the Conservative-controlled authority, was quoted in the report as saying: “The stories about the mega-rich parking their money in Westminster have got to the point where even Westminster council is embarrassed at what is going on.
“There is no need for more multimillion-pound houses. The issue isn’t finding homes for the Qatar royal family or any other monarchy. We need to find homes for people on medium and low incomes.”
The Qataris’ agents had tried to head off the problem by offering the council £850,000 in cash toward its affordable housing fund. But Rees said this was not permitted.
Dimoldenberg said the amount offered would buy a single two-bedroom flat in that part of the city.
The Qataris bought the mansions for an estimated £120 million in 2013.
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