British Union flags, also known as Union Jacks, fly outside residential homes on a housing estate in Sunderland, U.K. (Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg)

Billionaire's Firm Faces Rejection for 1,300 London Homes

(Bloomberg) -- Grosvenor Group Ltd., one of the biggest central London property owners, is facing rejection of its plan to develop more than 1,300 rental homes in the arty Bermondsey district.

Planning officials recommended Southwark borough members vote against the plan on Feb. 6, in part because they say the most affordable homes in the south London project would be too expensive for lower-income renters, according to a filing by the borough on Tuesday. Grosvenor wants to create a 500-million-pound ($654 million) neighborhood on the site of a former biscuit factory, which would include a school, office space and food and drink outlets.

Grosvenor is owned by the Duke of Westminster’s family trusts and its estate includes hundreds of acres in London’s Belgravia and Mayfair neighborhoods. Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor became the 7th Duke of Westminster after the sudden death of his father Gerald in 2016. He has a net worth of about $12.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The Duke turned 28 on Tuesday and is among the world’s youngest billionaires. On top of London property, his family owns five rural estates in England, Wales, Scotland and Spain, covering more than 150,000 acres. He’s the U.K.’s third-richest person behind engineering entrepreneur James Dyson and Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals manufacturer Ineos Group.

Grosvenor has pitched the project at the majority of Londoners who can’t afford to buy and don’t qualify for social housing by offering to discount the rent on a greater proportion of the homes it proposed to build. As a trade-off it would make the deduction less significant, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland chief executive officer Craig McWilliam wrote in an article on the company’s website published in October, pointing out it would take the project 20-years to break even.

A Grosvenor spokeswoman wasn’t immediately able to comment on the council officers’ recommendation to refuse the project.

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