Dragons' Den star James Caan has fallen out with neighbours over his plans to excavate a huge basement beneath his north London home.
© Rex Features
However, his wife, Aisha, says the pair didn’t complain when their neighbours “had some very disruptive work lasting many years” carried out at their homes.
The couple want to dig a subterranean extension beneath their detached four-storey art deco townhouse in St John’s Wood, with space for an underground artists’ studio and private art gallery, as well as a studio flat for domestic staff.
They also plan a three-storey extension behind the property adding, in total,4,800 sq ft of living space — the equivalent of nine one-bedroom flats.
Several neighbours have lodged official objections to the plans saying that trees will need to be pulled down to make way for the new extension, and that the sheer size of the development will cause a “sense of enclosure” to neighbouring homes and spoil the look of the Caan’s home.
The upper floors of the Caans’ property, currently worth an estimated £5.7 million, will be fitted with a gym, and also a games room where Mr Caan can indulge his love of snooker and cinema. There will be an extensive master suite with his-and-hers dressing rooms and bathrooms, a glazed sun lounge, and three further bedroom suites.
Westminster council is set to approve the plans, saying it is “acceptable” in terms of design.
Caan, 52, is one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs, with an estimated personal fortune of £65m. He and and his wife, Aisha Caan, have two grown up daughters who both live at home.
Mrs Caan, 54, told Homes & Property that the work was necessary to upgrade the house as the existing kitchen is very small. The studio, she said, will give her a suitable place to work from home, and the gallery will be a place to exhibit her own work. “I have a lot of completed works and it would be nice to have it displayed rather than stacked up on the floor,” she said.
The family have lived in the property for 16 years, during which time they have not carried out any significant building work. “But we have been subjected to very disruptive projects carried out by both our neighbours over many years, and we have never ever complained,” Mrs Caan said. “I am not being stupid and ridiculous and creating space for the sake of creating it.”
The creation of basements beneath London homes has become the most contentious form of home improvement in recent years. Last week Roman Abramovich won consent for a basement beneath his Chelsea home, to the horror of his neighbours who claimed the works would be disruptive and could cause local subsidence.