The Duke of Westminster, owner of Belgravia and Mayfair, is making a bid for two prime acres of Holland Park School to build 72 luxury flats. His Grosvenor Estates property company says it is eager to expand beyond its central-London heartland.
The state-run school — dubbed the “socialist Eton” because of its popularity with left-wing parents, plans to sell two acres of its playing fields to raise funds for a showpiece new campus.
Kensington and Chelsea planners approved the scheme a year ago, since when a buyer with deep pockets has been sought.
“Bids have been received that will allow us to proceed with ambitious plans for the school,” said a council education spokesman. “A temporary school will be built on site by August 2010 and the new school will open in September 2012.”
Grosvenor declines to comment but is in pole position to win the prestige residential project and is understood to be in advanced talks with the council. The council says a winning bid will be announced early next year.
The school site on Airlie Gardens is considered a trophy address, adjoining Holland Park gardens and wide, tree-lined streets with mansions owned by the super-rich.
The school opened in 1958 and quickly became the flagship for comprehensive education. Veteran socialist MP Tony Benn, a local resident, sent his four children to the school and has condemned the proposal to build private homes in part of the grounds as “absolutely wrong”.
Grosvenor, headed by the Duke (who has an estimated personal fortune of £7 billion), has a strategy to expand with new high-quality residential developments. The company is building 229 flats in five spectacular glass pavilions next to Tate Modern at Bankside.
Kensington and Chelsea leader Merrick Cockell, says: “The new school will have magnificent facilities rivalling anything in the private sector and these will be available to the wider community.”