Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The derelict mansions on Britain's 'Billionaires' Row'

By Lucy Pawle, CNN
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 0223 GMT (1023 HKT)
This decaying mansion, The Towers, was bought 25 years ago by a prominent Middle Eastern family. This decaying mansion, The Towers, was bought 25 years ago by a prominent Middle Eastern family.
HIDE CAPTION
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
The mansions on 'Billionaires' Row'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A third of the houses on Britain's second most expensive street are lying vacant
  • Dubbed "Billionaires' Row," the road's average house costs over £6 million
  • Many have been deserted by their wealthy foreign owners

(CNN) -- A third of the houses on Britain's second most expensive street are lying vacant, many abandoned for decades and left to rot.

Behind the padlocked gates and long driveways, up to 20 mansions stand empty on London's The Bishops Avenue, despite a reported combined value of around £350 million ($582 million).

Dubbed "Billionaires' Row," the road's average house costs over £6 million ($9.98 million), but many have been deserted by their wealthy owners.

Despite their dilapidated condition, the houses remain a safe place for wealthy foreigners to park their money because of London's rocketing property prices, which rose 11% last year, and because of the road's reputation as a magnet for the rich and famous.

Rebuilding London's 'Billionaires' Row'

Anil Varma, a property developer appointed by a hedge fund owner to manage six of the vacant homes, calls it one of "the most expensive wastelands in Europe."

He's hoping to get permission to convert decaying mansion The Towers into luxury apartments. Bought 25 years ago by a prominent Middle Eastern family but never lived in because of planning permission complications, the once-magnificent mansion was abandoned and has fallen into disrepair.

Varma showed CNN through the property, revealing animal skeletons lying on moss-covered floors, paint ripped off the damp-soaked ceilings and stairs which have partially collapsed.

Jersey House, 200 meters up the road, is on sale for £40 million ($67 million) and estate agent Trevor Abrahmsohn says investors aren't put off by the numerous abandoned homes on the road because The Bishops Avenue "is an iconic road, like Rodeo Drive or Wall Street."

Buying a house here "is a statement of wealth... a statement that you've arrived," he told CNN. The street has long been a landing pad for wealthy investors in developing countries undergoing geopolitical chaos: Iranians after the 1979 revolution, eastern Europeans after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and most recently, Chinese oligarchs, he said.

But, as Britain faces a housing shortage and soaring property prices, The Bishops Avenue's empty mansions are likely to add to debate over taxes payable by overseas property buyers -- particularly if they remain empty.

However, Richard Cornelius, who heads the local government branch of Barnet Council, told CNN he "would rather spend public money bringing family houses back into use than getting involved in battles with the lawyers of billionaires."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
How do you feel about buying property? Scared of a bubble emerging where you live? Add your voice to our mood map.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
A room in a property valued at $1.1 million in London.
The garden is overflowing with weeds and trash is strewn across the lower floors. And it could be yours for $1.1 million.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0241 GMT (1041 HKT)
A futursitic silk cooperative that aims to bring together workers of the countryside.
What happens when a North Korean architect is given free rein to design what he or she likes?
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Shipping containers are being reused around the world to provide affordable housing in property hot spots.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The American concept of senior living villages and homes is being adapted in the world's most populous nation.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
Where can you find the Eiffel Tower, an English village and Scandinavian seaside town? In China's replica cities of course.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
A plan to revive the abandoned resort town of Varosha in Cyprus is bringing together Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
London's The Shard has taken top honors in the annual Skyscraper Awards.
May 14, 2014 -- Updated 0306 GMT (1106 HKT)
Milan might be the capital of Italian fashion but it's an ambitious architectural project that's generating buzz.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 0239 GMT (1039 HKT)
Some of Italy's most magnificent monuments are being supported by the country's big brands.
ADVERTISEMENT