Billionaire Tory donor ordered to demolish five-star hotel that hosted Brexit agreement

Surinder Arora has been told to demolish all or part of the hotel after adding an extra wing and extending the building without planning permission

Archie Mitchell
Tuesday 29 August 2023 13:16 BST
What does the 'Windsor Framework' mean for Northern Ireland?

A billionaire Tory donor has been told to tear down his five-star hotel where Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen signed the Brexit deal.

Surinder Arora’s Fairmont Windsor Park Hotel hosted the PM and European Commission president for the signing of the Windsor Framework for Northern Ireland in February.

But the 64-year-old has been told to demolish all or part of the hotel after adding an extra wing and extending the building without planning permission.

The hotel tycoon, and Arora Group founder and chairman, has until October to appeal the decision by Runnymede Borough Council, according to reports.

The Fairmont Windsor Park Hotel also played host to an away day for Tory MPs hosted by Mr Sunak

The council found the development had a “harmful effect on the green belt” and, if disputed, an appeal could eventually end up with housing secretary Michael Gove, according to The Times .

Mr Arora was also denied planning permission for five luxury treehouses on a nearby site and may have to take them down.

The billionaire is a former baggage handler who started his business empire with four derelict houses near Heathrow.

Mr Arora converted the homes into bed-and-breakfast accommodation for British Airways cabin crew in 1993.

Today he has a portfolio of 16 hotels with more than 6,000 rooms, mostly near Heathrow and Gatwick, and a family net worth of £1.3bn, according to The 2023 Sunday Times Rich List.

The Indian-born businessman worked as a baggage handler and a wine waiter at the Heathrow Pena hotel — now the Renaissance Hotel, part of the Arora group.

Surinder Arora is a former baggage handler who started his business empire with four derelict houses near Heathrow

His Fairmont Windsor Park Hotel also played host to a March away day for Tory MPs hosted by Mr Sunak.

The Conservatives booked the entire hotel for lectures, drinks receptions and a dinner with the PM, where MPs were able to eat Hereford beef, Atlantic cod and roast Scottish salmon.

That came after the £400+ a night hotel in Berkshire served as the backdrop for Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen to agree the Windsor Framework this year - a victory for the PM.

General manager Ryan Nicholls said at the time staff were “delighted to be part of the historic occasion”.

The five-star hotel is surrounded by 40 acres of green space and situated on the edge of Windsor Great Park, a royal park that spans 4,800 acres.

Aside from accommodation, facilities include an award-winning luxury spa and wellness centre, seven restaurants and bars, and event spaces.

Fairmont Windsor Park also has 15 meeting rooms, one of which served as the venue for the political meeting, and a ballroom that can cater for events of up to 700 guests.

Rishi Sunak greets Ursula Von Der Leyen at the Fairmont Windsor Park hotel

Dozens of residents made submissions over the hotel, while a report by a local residents’ association found “a number of large additions to the hotel” that did not appear to have planning permission, including an extra wing and two extensions.

It said that the hotel was around two-and-a-half metres taller than planned and that out of around 20 applications, there were none approved online that “show these apparent additions to the hotel”.

Through Arora Management Services Ltd, Mr Arora has previously donated £5,000 to the Conservatives in Runnymede and Weybridge, plus another £1,450 in sponsorship, according to The Telegraph.

Mr Arora said he is “truly sorry” for mistakes made during the construction of the Fairmont Windsor Park.

He said: “It was a highly challenging construction site being developed in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The billionaire added that he is “engaging with Runnymede Council and other local stakeholders to find mutually acceptable solutions”.

Mr Arora said: “The hotel is a fantastic property which we want to ensure it continues serving the local area and bringing significant economic benefits to Runnymede. We remain extremely proud of it but also accept the need to remedy our mistakes.”

Runnymede Borough Council said it was “disappointed that these works were undertaken on the site without planning permission”.

In a statement, the council said: “Runnymede Borough Council responded to an enforcement investigation request made on February 21 2023 that claimed that the Fairmont Hotel Windsor Park had been built incorrectly, with significant additions to the rear of the building meaning it was larger than the approved plans.

“Following an enforcement investigation, a Planning Enforcement Notice was issued on July 7 2023 which requires the hotel to either be returned to the approved plans, or demolished.”

The council said it would consider a retrospective planning application for the hotel.

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