He made his fortune producing children’s bubble bath in Darth Vader-shaped bottles. And this week Robert Beecham is set to be given permission to spend a large chunk of his wealth demolishing a £15 million Primrose Hill house, built only 26 years ago, so he can build an even larger, Regency-style property, in its place.
The new house will come with a 200ft-long basement stretching under the garden containing a banqueting hall for 80 people, a Turkish bath and a “salt grotto” — said to hold health-giving properties.
Despite objections from local residents Camden council’s planning committee is expected to approve the proposals at a meeting tomorrow, after hearing that Mr Beecham is willing to make a donation of almost £600,000 towards affordable housing in the borough if his plans are approved.
A report by council officers says: “The proposed new dwelling would undoubtedly be grander in appearance than the existing...”
It continues: “However, given that the dwelling would be set back from the road and would not be visible in the street scene except in small glimpses, the proposed design is considered to be acceptable.”
Even by the standards of billionaire basements Mr Beecham’s subterranean plans are extraordinary. His banqueting hall will have seating for 80 guests, and there will also be two bars, and a pool hall with adjacent humidor to store cigars.
On a healthier note Mr Beecham, who is 65, and his wife Claire, 54, will also have a gym, pool, Jacuzzi, juice bar, massage/Pilates room, plunge pool, sauna, a Turkish bath and a “tepidarium” — a heated relaxation and massage room, like those found in ancient Roman baths.
The “salt grotto” will complete the spa experience. This is another heated room, lined with salt crystals, which is reputed to offer health benefits to those suffering from a range of conditions including asthma and high blood pressure.
And appropriately enough for a businessman whose big break came in 1977 when he won Europe’s first product licence for Star Wars merchandise, there will be a cinema.
The house itself will have seven bedroom suites and a series of reception rooms. A mews house behind the property will be converted into a garage with staff accommodation above.
In total the property will measure a massive 22,314 sq ft.
Francoise Findley, chairman of the Elsworthy Residents Committee, said the basement development is far larger than any other in the area. “The amount of excavation necessitated on the site remains a huge concern,” she said.
Meir Elias, who lives close to the property, claimed that the basement was “far in excess” of Camden’s guidelines. The 88-year-old raised concerns about “noise, vibration, dust, and traffic and parking” during the build, which will take several years to complete.
However, a statement from Wolff Architects, acting for Mr Beecham, stressed that basement builds are “not uncommon” in the NW3 postcode, and that several neighbouring properties already had underground extensions. The house would, continued the report, create a space “suitable for the modern family lifestyle”.