Road trip: Barratt Homes – on The Bishops Avenue!

London’s ultimate Billionaires’ Row is famous for its pristine palaces. Now blocks of flats are moving in. Chris Partridge reports
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The Independent Online

The Bishops Avenue is the ultimate Billionaires' Row. It's the street where the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, the Sultan of Brunei and the Saudi royal family keep their London homes. Earlier this year, the avenue's record was broken when Lev Leviyev, the Russo-Israeli diamond billionaire, paid £35m for a seven-bedroom mansion named Palladio. A fortnight later, the ante was upped when Toprak Mansion was sold for £41m to the Kazakh billionairess Horelma Peramam. Now a third, and even more surprising, record is about be written into the history of The Bishops Avenue: it's about to get its first Barratt homes – and what's more, they're flats.

Allingham Court is a total departure for Barratt – prices range from £4m to £11m. Architecture is contemporary with traditional details such as pitched slate roofs with gables. A bridge over a moat leads to a glittering glass foyer. The site slopes down from the road, so although the entrance seems to be on the ground floor, it is actually on the first. The largest apartments are 6,000 sq ft, occupying the entire basement of each block, looking out at ground level at the back. One three-bedroom flat has a snooker room large enough for several full-size tables, with a bar one side and a cinema off the other.

Only houses have lined the avenue since it was laid out in Edwardian times, but in the past six months three plots have been redeveloped as blocks of flats, and all three are about to go on sale. Practically opposite Allingham Court is The Woods by the developer Willow Acre. A much more restrained affair, it is clad in wood and glass and set in gardens. The 14 apartments have lifts opening directly inside each apartment. Floors and walls are Italian marble, and audio and video is piped everywhere. Prices start at £3m, rising to £6m.

Also on the avenue is Bishops Park by Octagon. The building is a solid recreation of Edwardian neo-Baroque brick and stone architecture, with 27 apartments. Despite their relatively lowly position on the wrong side of the A1, prices start at £2.1m.

Land prices have risen so high, it is now more profitable to put flats on the street's two-acre plots. Traditionally, houses on The Bishops Avenue would be knocked down and new, larger houses with all the latest toys would be built. But now that would cost £20m for a house and £10m for the rebuild, with a likely final selling price of £40m. Replacing a house with 14 flats at an average selling price of £5m would yield £70m.

So is this the thin end of the wedge for The Bishops Avenue? Well, Mittal, whose Summer Palace is next door to the new Barratt flats, is selling, though it's unknown if this is behind his motivation. Trevor Abrahmsohn of Glentree Estates, who specialises in selling the avenue's mansions, welcomes the flats. "Because the buyers are local people, community spirit is coming back," he says. "But The Bishops Avenue will not become flats from end to end, because the planning laws are so draconian. There is still strong demand from international buyers who want a second home in a political and economic safe haven, and also want a statement of their wealth."