A £250 million project to create one of London’s most glamorous apartment blocks has been mothballed in a row over how much its billionaire backer must pay towards providing affordable homes in the area.
Westminster council has told developer Richard Caring that he must include affordable homes for first-time buyers among the 41 luxury flats he plans for the US Navy’s former London HQ in Grosvenor Square, W1 - or hand over £4.5 million to help fund low-cost housing elsewhere in the borough.
Now it has emerged that Caring, and an unnamed consortium of investors, have failed to agree the payment.
Four years after Caring, who owns a string of some of the capital‘s grandest dining rooms and is one of the wealthiest men in the UK, bought the building in prime Grosvenor Square, the site remains untouched.
Planning permission to redevelop the former US Navy headquarters into 41 luxury flats was won by Caring and his business partners in May 2009. Last year Caring said that he was hoping to start work on Grosvenor Square by the end of 2010, but that self-imposed deadline has been and gone.
Westminster Council has confirmed that the “ongoing negotiation” over the payment for affordable housing has halted work. Until agreement can be reached the building will remain mothballed.
“We know that there is work going on in the background with this development and we do not have any immediate concerns,” said a council spokesman. “It is not like the property is derelict and it is not listed.”
A spokesman for Caring declined to comment on the project’s future, and could not offer any information about when work may finally start.
If agreement can be reached with Westminster, the Grosvenor Square development will be aimed at the same super-prime end of the market as the Candy brothers’ One Hyde Park complex.
It has been claimed that sales at the glitzy block are almost at the £1 billion mark. And although the development does not include any affordable unit’s, the Candy brothers did fund an affordable housing scheme in Pimlico instead.
Caring’s 180,000 sq ft property is 20/21 Grosvenor Square and acted as president Dwight Eisenhower's military headquarters during World War Two. High-end property is a new sphere for Caring, who made his fortune largely in fashion and food. In 2005 he sold the evening-wear label Amanda Wakeley and used the proceeds to take over Caprice Holdings - owner of The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey.
In 2007 he bought the Birley Group, which includes Annabel’s and Harry’s Bar, for £95 million, and in 2011 he bought 80 per cent of private member’s club Soho House for £105 million. Caring is also a major shareholder in the Carluccio’s chain.