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09:15 Thursday 23 August 2012  Written by Amanda Hall

Secretive billionaire buys country escape in Burnham

jun15_cliveden
The Livingstones also lease Cliveden House

A grand country house in Burnham blighted by a history of neglect and fires could be restored to its former glory by a secretive billionaire.

Property tycoon Richard Livingstone is looking to turn Dropmore Park, which includes the Grade-I listed Dropmore House, into a personal country escape.

It's the second property in the area which has caught the interest of the chartered surveyor, who bought the lease to nearby Cliveden House in Taplow with his older brother Ian in February for a reported £30m.

John Brushe, conservation officer for South Bucks District Council, said: "Dropmore House is very secluded, which may be one of the reasons Mr Livingstone was attracted to the property.

"It's a very important house and I'm sure people will want to see it fully restored."

But he added a 'backlog' of repairs due to years of neglect will need to be carried out before Mr Livingstone can move in.

The Dropmore Road estate was built in the 1790s by Samuel Wyatt for Lord William Grenville, who as Prime Minister pushed through the law abolishing slavery.

Mr Brushe said the estate began to decline after the Second World War when it passed hands between newspaper proprietor Lord Kemsley, the University of San Diego and a UAE diplomat.

About one third of the main house also had to be demolished following two major fires in 1990 and 1997, landing the forlorn estate on the English Heritage 'at risk' register.

Restoration work was started by Corporate Estates in 2005 who were granted permission by SBDC to turn the estate into 54 luxury apartments, each worth between £850,000 and £4m.

But the project was abandoned in 2008 when the company went into administration.

Mr Brushe added no new planning applications have been submitted by Mr Livingstone since he bought the estate earlier this year.

"Some of the buildings on the site are already in an advanced state of decay," he said.

"I believe if Mr Livingstone doesn't act soon, the situation could worsen."

The elusive brothers, who have rarely been photographed or interviewed, own property company London & Regional and reportedly have a personal wealth of more than £1.3bn as well as a property portfolio of about £5bn. 

Mr Livingstone and London & Regional were not available for comment.

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