Neighbours back Queen star Brian May over building ‘Hell’ in Kensington


8 May 2014 by Jonathan Prynn

Brian May and Anita Dobson, and work near their home
Under pressure: Brian May and Anita Dobson, and work near their home: JOSH PETTITT


Brian May’s neighbours have backed his claim that newcomers to the area have turned it into a “hellhole” with “obscene” building work. The Queen guitarist has complained that for months his life has been dominated by a soundtrack of drilling and construction work, as two neighbours build their basement extensions yards from his £11 million home.

May, 66, said he felt as if the “selfish” homeowners had “declared war” on his family with their incessant work.

One development in the Kensington street is under a four-storey property where the owners had already spent a year on an overhaul, before builders returned for a fresh makeover. They are adding a gym, staff accommodation and three bedrooms for their daughters. The second development backs onto May’s property. The owner, believed to run a construction business, is building a two-storey basement for a swimming pool and gym, along with a garage to house up to five cars.

One neighbour, a 59-year-old magistrate, said: “Every window I look out of I see building work. I joke to my husband that one day we’ll disappear into a big hole. When the drilling is going the house shakes. I have a beautiful garden I can’t use, grit comes up to my front door, and in summer I won’t be able to open the windows because of the noise. The council aren’t interested. The owners of the house across the road bought it five years ago, spent £2 million renovating it and now have ripped everything out. I find that obscene.”

A writer aged 61 who lives next to where the two-storey basement is being dug said cracks had appeared in her home: “The noise lasts all day. Brian [May] sleeps during the day and works at night so it’s terrible for him. We went through the proper channels and spent a lot of energy trying to stop it. It’s not the owner’s fault, it’s the fact they’re allowed to do it. It’s bonkers.”

May said: “Perhaps if we all value our peace and quiet at a million pounds, and all sue the bastards at the same time … they might think twice about behaving like this again.”

On his website, he added: “Whom would a peaceful person like myself fantasise about making suffer? Well that would be the people who passed sentence on me without me having committed a crime — the people who have declared war on me and my family. Kensington used to be a nice quiet decent place to live … now it’s becoming a hellhole.”

Kensington and Chelsea council said: “We already use the laws available to us to their full extent to limit disturbance during construction. We are proposing new policies to reduce the scale of subterranean developments and control the growth of very large properties. We have submitted our proposals to the Secretary of State and expect a decision later this year.”

The households carrying out the work were unavailable for comment.

Rise of the two-in-one mega mansions

Estate agents say they have seen a huge surge in the number of wealthy buyers looking to create mansions in central London by knocking together apartments or neighbouring homes. An acute “mansion famine,” waning enthusiasm for “iceberg” homes with deep basements, and the higher prices commanded by huge trophy properties is driving the trend.

In 2013 there were 65 applications to Kensington & Chelsea council for amalgamation of properties to create a single home. There were just 18 in 2012. In the first two months of this year alone there were a further 27 applications, according to figures compiled by Knightsbridge based buying agency Huntly Hooper.

It is a reversal of a long-standing trend to turn large homes into flats or offices.

Director Oliver Hooper said properties in the best areas of central London can increase in value from less than £2,000 per square foot to as much as £4,000 sq ft by being merged.

Two Holland Park houses on the market for £20 million and £30 million are currently divided into flats — but are being promoted as opportunities to create family homes worth more than £40 million each.

Mr Hooper said: “As prices have increased, buyers in the very top end of the market are also looking at ways that they can get a better deal. Big basements are starting to become unfashionable, people want space above ground, they want light.”

John Caudwell
Home comforts: phone tycoon John Caudwell
(Picture: Rebecca Reid)


Earlier this year it emerged that Phones 4U tycoon John Caudwell has won permission to create a “mega-mansion” by linking two family homes with a vast subterranean extension.

Mayfair estate agent Peter Wetherell said a group of five apartments near Berkeley Square had been turned into one house for a Middle Eastern family. He said: “When they go in the men turn left and the women turn right, so it worked well.”