Beyoncé's bolthole investigated: Is billionaire Noam Gottesman’s helipad in Burley estate even legal?
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Sunday 16 March 2014
Residents of Woolton Hill in Hampshire are used to celebrities causing a buzz in their otherwise sleepy village. This is due to its proximity to the Burley estate, a luxurious property owned by a billionaire hedge fund manager where guests regularly arrive by helicopter.
But it appears that the exclusive bolthole has now become so popular with visiting stars that the noise from the frequent low-flying air traffic is irritating residents – and has prompted a council investigation into whether its helipad is, in fact, legal.
Local resident Helen Carlile, who runs the WooltonHill.com site, told The Independent that her friends in the village “do talk about the helicopters and they are frustrated by them. It’s often late at night and very noisy. They seem to come in very low.”
She added: “I’m further away from the estate so I don’t hear it as much, but there are people in the village who are very bothered by it.”
Noam Gottesman, the co-founder of the hedge fund GLG Partners and who is believed to be worth about $2bn, according to Forbes, owns the Burley estate. The American singer Beyoncé, who stayed last year during her tour, is one of its many high-profile guests and is believed to have returned this year with her husband, Jay-Z.
“She was staying at the estate for a while and obviously on tour, so she was in and out every night,” Ms Carlile said. She added that residents claim to have spotted the global star in the local Mothercare. “Other celebrities are believed to come in, but Beyoncé is the one we’re most aware of.”
Burley’s owners are currently under investigation by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council after an allegation relating to whether a planning application had been made for a helipad. A spokeswoman confirmed that the estate was currently under scrutiny over two issues: a “change of use to a residential property without planning permission” and a “change of use to a commercial property [helicopter business] without planning permission”.
She added that as yet “no planning permission has been granted for a permanent helipad on the land”. She added: “We visited the site, met with the site and an enforcement case remains ongoing.”
The helicopter flights have caused annoyance to locals, coming in at irregular hours of the evening and early morning, although the council said it had received no complaints over the issue. “We always say they’re the noisy neighbours,” one resident told The Sunday Telegraph. “When they do stay here, it is very, very noisy because they come in low over the house. We have heard the helicopter come late at night and early in the morning.”
At the village pub, The Rampant Cat, one local said villagers were aware of the helicopters “every now and again”, but added that it did not bother them and it was “nice to have Beyoncé visiting”.
Mr Gottesman, who is reported to have dated actress Lucy Liu and is a renowned art collector, made headlines in the UK before the credit crunch when he sold his London home for £117m. Local residents have approached him recently as they are fundraising for the village hall.
“He has donated to things in the past,” Ms Carlile said, before adding that the secretive billionaire was hardly ever seen “out and about”. The estate in Hampshire is close to Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey. Nobody at the estate could be reached for comment.
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