Owner of Tudor house told to take down hoardings

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The Independent Online

A Tudor hall in London, which was the home of Sir Thomas More and is now being redeveloped as luxury flats, will once again be visible to passers-by after the local council ordered its owner to remove unsightly hoardings surrounding the building.

Council officials have given Christopher Moran two weeks to take down the boards which were erected eight years ago and obscure the front of Crosby Hall, a 15th-century house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. If Mr Moran fails to comply, Kensington and Chelsea council will dismantle the boards and send the bill to him.

The ultimatum should mark the end of a chequered period in the building's history since it was purchased by Mr Moran for the knockdown price of £100,000 in 1989 on the expiry of its 400-year lease.

Mr Moran, 53, had undertaken to invest more than half of his estimated £50m fortune to create "the most lavish house in London". His plans, including a dining hall extension and a quadrangle of buildings in a variety of Tudor styles, were twice rejected by council planners who feared that a piece of architectural heritage would be replaced by a personal monument to the financier.

But his designs were eventually approved with the proviso that he allow token public access. The order was made to take into account the appeal to tourists of the house once occupied by Sir Thomas More, a devout churchman, politician and the author of Utopia, who was executed because of his opposition to Henry VIII's reforms of the Church.

Mr Moran, who built his fortune on insurance services in the aviation industry, mounted a successful legal challenge and the building has remained out of bounds to all but the owner and his friends.

There has also been a protracted dispute between the owner and contractors. In 1999 Mr Moran, who was expelled from Lloyd's in 1982 for misconduct, lost a High Court case brought against him by the architects he had hired for the restoration. He was also ordered to pay £82,500 costs to the historic building architects Carden and Godfrey after they had carried out 11 years' work.

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