The proposals for a basement extension on London's Brunei House, ordered by one of the world's richest men, The Sultan of Brunei, have been approved against the objections of neighbours.
Residents of Bayswater wanted Westminster council to follow Kensington’s lead by considering a ban on subterranean extensions after the sultan ordered an upgrade of Brunei House, a Grade II-listed, six-storey property in Leinster Square, which he uses to house visiting dignitaries.
Worth an estimated personal fortune of £10 billion, the leader of oil-rich Brunei lives in a £110 million lodge in nearby Regent’s Park when in London. He was said to be “shocked” by the state of his Bayswater guest house during a recent visit. But neighbours fear his plans to dig a new basement as part of a complete makeover will cause them months of disruption.
As well as upgrading the historic building, the new extension will allow for 13 en suite bedrooms plus communal facilities including a kitchen, TV room and prayer room.
“The Sultan of Brunei himself has taken an interest in this project as he was shocked by the standard of accommodation offered to visiting government guests when he recently visited the site,” explained a letter from the commission’s agent Walsingham Planning to Westminster Council, which ruled on the plans on Tuesday March 26.
“The proposal therefore has high priority within the Brunei government ministry of development and we would be grateful for any priority that can be given to the scheme.”
However, proposals have horrified people living in flats near the property who fear that the works, as well as causing noise and disruption, could cause their own homes to subside.
“This issue is at the heart of concerns expressed by residents across many central London boroughs, heightened by well-publicised accidents occurring during basement constructions,” explained a report by Rosemarie MacQueen, the council’s strategic director of built environment which was considered by its planning committee. “Residents are concerned that the excavation of new basements is a risky construction process. Many also cite potential effects on the water table and the potential increase in the risk of flooding.”
Alexander Bailey, of Axiom Architects, designed the scheme. He said: “We have done a lot of work with a structural engineer to ensure there will be no subsidence. The contractors will keep noise to a minimum and contact all the neighbours to find out if there are any concerns.” He estimated the work would take almost a year to complete and the project will cost between £3-6 million.