Lord Lloyd Webber and the Earl of Carnarvon fight over £150m castle

Lord Lloyd Webber and the Earl of Carnarvon fight over £150m castle



By Dawn Murden


Ex-Arsenal player Thierry Henry married English model Nicole Merry there back in 2003, and now Andrew Lloyd Webber is challenging the future of Highclere castle and its the 6,000 acre estate.

As well as Henry’s, the castle has hosted other star-studded celebrity weddings including that of glamour girl Katie Price (aka Jordan) to Peter Andre in 2005. And as with both marriages, the castle has seen better days.

Highclere is in dire need of repair; the ceilings are collapsing, fifty rooms are inhabitable and the stone turrets – designed by the same architect who created the Houses of Parliament, Charles Barry – are badly decaying.

But the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who own the property, have rejected Lord Webber’s “totally unsolicited” offer to buy their £150m ancestral home.

The famous composer first approached Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council, unofficially, in August 2009, expressing an interest in buying the castle – explaining it would be the perfect home for his extensive art collection. 

It is estimated that all the castle’s necessary maintenance would cost around £12m and the Earl and Countess are currently in the process of applying for permission to build 15 houses on the estate, which would help them raise the money for the much needed repairs.

However, Lord Webber is offering an alternate option for the Enabling Development proposal and in a letter addressed to the council in June of this year wrote: "I must declare an interest bearing in mind that I could provide a secure future for the castle without any development of this kind in an AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty].

"The enabling development proposal for Highclere would not affect me directly but if there is another way to preserve the castle and at the same time prevent development in an AONB, I do believe it is at least worth discussing."

Lord Webber won’t be nailing up treble clef shaped tacks to the castle walls for his paintings just yet though. Lord Carnarvon said he was “surprised and mystified” by the offer and added: “It is a treasured, long-term family estate and I have never discussed selling it to anyone. It is not for sale.”

Despite the Earl’s development being proposed on an AONB site, according to a Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council spokesperson, the proposed development was received well by the local community when announced in a meeting held last Wednesday.

She added: “It is in the very early stages, and at the moment the council are waiting for the Carnarvons to produce a planning proposal package.”

Highclere has been in the Carnarvon family for 300 years, and the only offer they are willing to make outside of their development plans is to sell Lord Webber a small patch of land.

An hour from London, Oxford and Bristol, in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with a 19th Century castle as your neighbour, we’re guessing the development – if given the green light – could prove pretty lucrative.

However, if it’s a not a castle then we doubt it’s a deal with Lord Webber...

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