Fears of new planning feud as tycoon’s Knightsbridge ‘basement war’ mansion is sold for £50m

A mansion in Knightsbridge at the centre of one of London’s most bitter and long-running “basement wars” has been sold for £50 million.

The purchase of the seven-bedroom Victorian former school near Harrods, previously owned by Canadian cable TV mogul David Graham, has sparked fears a new planning row could be ignited.

Land Registry documents reveal the property changed hands in August almost a year after Mr Graham’s death from a stroke at the age of 80.

He had infuriated neighbours in Walton Street in 2012 with plans for one of the deepest “iceberg” homes in the capital.

He proposed to triple its size by digging down 50ft to create a four-storey basement with 45ft pool, hot tub, sauna, massage room, ballroom, covered courtyards, staff accommodation, parking and car lift. There would be wine cellars and an art storage room.

Mr Graham said the 18,000 sq ft extension was needed to provide his “family’s needs as required by today’s contemporary living”.

But the “monstrous and unnecessary plans” caused a storm among residents including novelist Edna O’Brien, fashion designer Bruce Oldfield and the Duchess of St Albans. 

The plan was thrown out by Kensington and Chelsea council, as was a more modest proposal last year for a 5,945 sq ft basement.

Now, Land Registry details show the property has been sold with no mortgage to a business registered in the US state of Delaware, OCH Walton LLC. Website PrimeResi.com said it was one of London’s biggest residential purchases of the year. It is now behind hoardings with a notification of renovation works outside.

Neighbours declined to comment. Michael Stephen, of residents’ group The Chelsea Society, said he feared the sale would reignite the planning feud.

“Whenever anyone buys a property in Chelsea they want to carry out major construction works and they almost always cause huge diminution in the quality of life of the local people,” he said. “The council doesn’t have the power to prevent it.”

The brick building started life as a school — it has “girls” and “boys” en-trances — and was later a magistrates’ court. Matthew Steeples, editor-in-chief of society magazine The Steeples Times, said: “The house has a large plot and potential to build downwards. Where else in the middle of Knightsbridge do you have a garden so big?”

He estimated renovation could boost its value by 25 per cent:  “Whoever buys it ... I would imagine they would wish to go ahead and build more.”

The Standard attempted to contact OCH Walton LLC for comment.

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