Architects have drawn up plans to fill a derelict site on London’s Billionaires’ Row with 300 homes – as property developers turn the street’s sprawling mansions into luxury flats and retirement complexes.
Designs created by leading firms Mae and RCKa show the area on one of the capital’s most expensive streets has space for hundreds of affordable properties – and could even include a new arts centre.
The current owner of the three hectare Bishops Avenue site is an Isle of Man-registered company whose beneficial owner is listed as a Cypriot businessman who gives a Dubai address, according to the Guardian.
Families would live alongside mansions that some of the world’s wealthiest people have called home – including the Sultan of Brunei, Justin Bieber and the Saudi royals.
The architects were commissioned by the Guardian to highlight lack of affordable housing in the UK, and the plans will not be submitted for development.
It comes as parts of London’s poshest avenue now resemble a busy building site, as workers in boots and high vis jackets scurry around while large construction vehicles shudder along it, leaving its well-heeled residents annoyed.
Architects Mae and Arka Works said the land should be used to build 240 one, two and three-bed apartments focused around a plush arts centre, with the original building maintained for public use
Proposing a mixture of social housing, family homes and privately rented accommodation, one business – RCKa – estimated 600 properties could have been dotted between the exclusive site’s trees
The 66-house street has been home to some of the world’s most wealthy, including Heather Mills and Sir Billy Butlin – founder of the holiday camps
Connecting the north-side of Hampstead Heath to East Finchley, the street lies on the boundary of the London boroughs Barnet and Haringey
Many houses on the exclusive road in North London stand empty as they prepare for redevelopment. Pictured: An empty house on Bishops Avenue
The Bishops Avenue is a bizarre mix of the upmarket and the shabby with a spectrum of houses. Pictured: Oak Lodge which was destroyed in a fire last year
The site, which is known by locals as ‘The Towers’ and is thought to have been abandoned for decades, was first owned by British actress and music hall legend Gracie Fields before it was knocked down in the 1970s.
After the actress and singer left the property, the land was divided up – being used as a maternity annexe for North Middlesex Hospital and consequently a Jewish care home called Heinrich Stahl House
The current mansion then took its place, and was reportedly snatched up by the Saudi royal family during the Gulf War for an estimated £25million.
The fantasy development in London’s grandest street lays bare how ordinary Brits are being priced out by expensive developments.
Applications for the site are set to turn the once sprawling mansion into 65 residential flats within a new building that could be as high as six storeys – as well as basement levels.
The proposals have been recommended for approval, although the planning committee has asked for them to carry out a further archaeological survey.
But the plans include no affordable housing at all – with the developer paying Barnet council £1.5million so they can build them elsewhere
Applications for the site are set to turn the once sprawling mansion into 65 residential flats within a new building that could be as high as six storeys – as well as basement levels. Pictured: The proposed entrance
The proposals have been recommended for approval, although the planning committee has asked for them to carry out a further archaeological survey. Pictured: Proposed elevations for the mansion and the accommodation behind
The plans include no affordable housing at all – with the developer paying Barnet council £1.5million so they can build them elsewhere. Pictured: Residential accommodation to the rear of the main property
The site is reported to be owned by an Isle of Man registered company linked to a Cypriot businessman living in Dubai. Pictured: An overhead view of the grounds and proposed works
This payment is expected to be the equivalent of one of their 65 proposed flats.
The site is reported to be owned by an Isle of Man registered company linked to a Cypriot businessman living in Dubai.
Director of Social Value Architecture firm RCKa Russell Curtis told The Guardian: ‘Is it right that there should be land like this sitting in a ridiculously expensive part of London that is unused?
‘At the moment we don’t have the policy levers to do anything about it.’
He claimed his design for 300 houses would get rid of Bishop’s Avenue’s currently ‘really unpleasant environment where everything is gated.’
Just along from the site, property developer Valourn is currently working on a £200million development to transform the Oak Lodge mansion, damaged in a fire last year, into a block of 30 flats.
And developer Riverstone is building 96 retirement flats at the empty Barons Court mansion, set to open in 2025, reports say.
The Bishops Avenue has at least 66 mansions along its mile-long tree-lined street and is home to some of the world’s richest people.
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Properties on the up market road are collectively said to be worth up to £350million.
But the street’s image has changed over the last decade, as properties left derelict have been left to rot.
‘Bishops Avenue is an area that they’re always developing because a lot of owners of the houses are overseas sellers, some of them don’t even come back to the UK so the houses get very dated and start falling apart and then they end up selling them,’ one estate agent said.
Property developer Valourn is currently working on a £200million development to transform the Oak Lodge mansion, damaged in a fire last year, into a block of 30 flats.
The cause of a fire at the disused £18million mansion remains a mystery as the building was too badly damaged, investigators said.
A blaze ripped through the house, thought to have been empty for 30 years, in June 2022 – destroying the roof as well as the first and ground floors.
At the time, a spokeswoman for the London Fire Brigade said: ‘The cause of the fire has been recorded as undetermined due to the level of damage to the building.
‘It was too badly damaged for our fire investigators to be able to determine what started it.’
Firefighters hosing the blaze at Oak Lodge on The Bishops Avenue in East Finchley which caught fire in June last year
Emergency services rushed to the wealthy street at 3.45am on June 6 last year and tackled the house fire
The cause of a fire at an £18m mansion Oak Lodge on London’s ‘Billionaires Row’ (pictured before the fire) in Hampstead remains a mystery as the building was too badly damaged, investigators said last year
Oak Lodge was the subject of a planning dispute in 2018 when developers wanted to knock it down and build a huge 18-apartment Beverly Hills-style block for the mega-rich.
It was sold in the same year for £18million to a different holding company 54 Bishops Avenue Limited, under architectural firm Pilbrow and Partners, with Bahraini businessman Mohammed Mahdi al Tajir listed as director.
Two years later, fresh plans for the site were approved by Barnet Council that would see the listed building, which dates back to 1927, renovated and split into two homes instead of being knocked down.
This planning permission included a total of 30 individual new homes on the site that was approved on 28 February 2020.
Parts of London’s poshest avenue now resemble a busy building site with mud and water scarring it as workers in boots and high vis jackets scurry around while large construction vehicles shudder along it, leaving its well-heeled residents annoyed.
Jenny, who only gave her first name, has been living on The Bishops Avenue for 20 years.
She told MailOnline she is upset over the changing landscape of the road she has called home for two decades. She said: ‘It’s disgusting what’s happening. It’s mainly flats that are being built and while they aren’t cheap, it has changed the area and brought in a different type of resident. The Bishops Avenue is not as exclusive as it used to be.’
‘The whole area has become a mess,’ said another. ‘First, we had a problem with abandoned homes and now we’ve got builders everywhere. There’s mud all over the road and it’s become very noisy.’