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Eden Confidential: Tycoon Robert Tchenguiz hits on Mayfair, but council says no to MI5 hotel plan


When colourful property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz splashed £140 million on MI5’s former Mayfair headquarters, he wanted to turn it into the ‘highest-end hotel in the world’ with a swish members’ club to rival society hotspot, 5 Hertford Street.

But just months after getting the green light from Westminster council, his dreams have been shattered.

For the British entrepreneur, 60, has been told he cannot go ahead with his mammoth project, which would have seen Britain’s former spycatcher HQ transformed into a luxurious 65-bed hotel with ground-floor shops and three levels of basement – containing spa and swimming pool – and a spectacular rooftop restaurant under a glass dome.

Councillors voted to approve the plans in February but, two months later, and before formal consent was given, they introduced the City Plan – a set of policies designed to control development in central London via targets for housing, economic growth, public open space and greenery.

When colourful property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz splashed £140 million on MI5’s former Mayfair headquarters, he wanted to turn it into the ‘highest-end hotel in the world’ with a swish members’ club

They decided Tchenguiz’s scheme fails to comply with the new rules, while officials are not happy with the loss of office space in his proposals for Leconfield House in Curzon Street.

Boasting 96,000sq ft of commercial space, it was MI5’s base from 1945 until 1976 when the service moved to Gower Street.

Tchenguiz bought the building for his Rotch property business in 2004.

Tchenguiz’s personal life is just as intriguing as his professional one: he shares the fourth floor of his £20million Kensington mansion with his mistress, 31-year-old Julia Dybowska, while his estranged American wife, Heather Bird, 52, sleeps three floors below.

Boasting 96,000sq ft of commercial space, Leconfield House in Curzon Street was MI5’s base from 1945 until 1976 when the service moved to Gower Street

Boasting 96,000sq ft of commercial space, Leconfield House in Curzon Street was MI5’s base from 1945 until 1976 when the service moved to Gower Street

Planning officers have now said the owners of Leconfield House must advertise the office space for as long as a year to prove it is surplus to requirements.

Speaking at Westminster’s planning meeting, Tchenguiz’s lawyer said: ‘It is in no one’s interest to pause the applications for a year of marketing to take place.’

He added that last-minute objections late last year ‘had the deliberate effect of forcing the application into the arms of a policy which it could never entirely comply with.’

The Satanic Verses author Sir Salman Rushdie is proving to be Twitter’s new ‘king of comebacks’, triumphing over his critics with his caustic wit. 

Yesterday, he had an online message, reading: ‘As an agent of Satan, I assume you get ten per cent of his earnings.’ 

To which Salman replied: ‘And twenty per cent on translation rights.’ 

HOLLYWOOD STAR SHINES FOR ALICE

 Princess Beatrice’s close friend Alice Naylor-Leyland is proving popular with Hollywood royalty, too.

She launched her ‘Mrs Alice’ tablescapes in The Hamptons this week, where she was joined by Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon.

Alice Naylor-Leyland is proving popular with Hollywood royalty. She launched her ‘Mrs Alice’ tablescapes in The Hamptons, where she was joined by Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon

Alice Naylor-Leyland is proving popular with Hollywood royalty. She launched her ‘Mrs Alice’ tablescapes in The Hamptons, where she was joined by Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon

Alice, 35, whose company creates themed dining sets for posh social events, describes the actress as ‘super smart and beautiful’.

But no one could eclipse Alice’s husband Tom, heir to the £176 million Fitzwilliam land-owning fortune, whom she says is ‘my biggest cheerleader’.

She played the sweet-natured Professor Sprout in Harry Potter, but Miriam Margolyes has hit the roof over ‘nasty’ greyhound racing – due to return to her home town next year. 

‘I have many fond memories of growing up in Oxford but they don’t involve watching gentle and sociable greyhounds run around a track for punters,’ fumes Miriam, 80.

‘This isn’t sport – it’s animal abuse.’ 

BOND GIRL DOES HEN DO IN BIKINI

 Sir Sean Connery’s granddaughter Saskia knows how to let her hair down.

The 25-year-old is on her hen do on the Greek island of Mykonos this week after becoming engaged to Hallstein Water heir Phillip Thomas Muhr, 33, in April — six months after the James Bond star died aged 90.

Embracing the party spirit, the swimwear designer — whose father is Sean’s stepson Stephane – at one point climbed onto the seat of her hotel restaurant to dance to ABBA’s Voulez-Vous with her friends.

Embracing the party spirit, the swimwear designer — whose father is Sean’s stepson Stephane - at one point climbed onto the seat of her hotel restaurant to dance to ABBA’s Voulez-Vous with her friends

Embracing the party spirit, the swimwear designer — whose father is Sean’s stepson Stephane – at one point climbed onto the seat of her hotel restaurant to dance to ABBA’s Voulez-Vous with her friends

Sir Sean Connery’s granddaughter Saskia knows how to let her hair down. Above: The pair pictured together in 2010

Sir Sean Connery’s granddaughter Saskia knows how to let her hair down. Above: The pair pictured together in 2010

But the pre-nuptial party, which she is comically referring to as ‘Saskia Gets Muhried’, does not mean her single days are over any time soon: she tells me the wedding will be next May.

‘We can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together,’ she says.

Tattooed TV chef Tom Brown has been served a devastating blow just months after his shock split from his wife of five months. 

I hear the Saturday Kitchen star, 34, has been dropped from the National Restaurant Awards list of the top 100 eateries in Britain, which will be published next week. 

‘It’s surprising given he ranked third last time,’ says my culinary source. 

‘We’re all wondering why he’s fallen out of favour so fast.’ 

Tom’s Hackney Wick restaurant, Cornerstone, was awarded a Michelin star earlier this year — around the time he wed Glaswegian Julieanne Soto, 29. 

The couple met last summer and she proposed just two months later as they lay in bed eating pizza. 

COLIN FIRTH TURNS DOWN STREISAND… 

Heart-throb Colin Firth has left Barbra Streisand in search of a leading man.

The Hollywood star, 79, has been trying to make a film about America’s first female photojournalist, Margaret Bourke-White, but is struggling after losing Firth, 60, who had been cast as U.S. novelist Erskine Caldwell.

Heart-throb Colin Firth, 60, (pictured above in 2020) has left Barbra Streisand in search of a leading man, after he had been cast as U.S. novelist Erskine Caldwell

Heart-throb Colin Firth, 60, (pictured above in 2020) has left Barbra Streisand in search of a leading man, after he had been cast as U.S. novelist Erskine Caldwell

‘When I first tried to make it [in 2012], I got Cate Blanchett and Colin Firth,’ says Streisand. 

But it took so long to get off the ground that Colin and Cate then dropped out as ‘they felt they were too old’.



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