A five-star hotel in Surrey, England, that provided the backdrop to the signing of a key Brexit deal, faces demolition after its billionaire owner was found to have breached local planning regulations.
An enforcement investigation earlier this year by the local planning authority Runnymede Borough Council claimed that Srinder Arora, one of Britain’s richest men with a fortune estimated at £1.26bn, had built the Fairmont Hotel Windsor Park with significant additions to the building that meant it was larger than the original approved plans.
A recently issued legal notice requires the 251-bedroom hotel to be either demolished completely or returned the condition agreed under the original plans.
The hotel was the venue for the signing of the Windsor Framework in February this year, when British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen finally overcame a major sticking point regarding the UK’s European Union withdrawal, agreeing on post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.
A spokesman for the local planning authority told Brussels Signal: “The council is disappointed that these works were undertaken on the site without planning permission. We would remind all developers of the importance of securing permission prior to undertaking works as any works without planning permission are entirely at the risk of the developer.”
Alongside the unauthorised building works subject to the investigation, the spokesman said there were further additional constructions on the site that had been put up without permission. He said these were also being considered under council regulations.
“It is understood that the developer is considering submitting a retrospective planning application to try to mitigate the impact upon the green belt caused by unauthorised construction works by knocking down other volume in the green belt,” the spokesman added.
“If such an application were to be received it would be considered in line with normal planning processes.”
Built on 150 acres on the edge of Windsor Great Park an hour from London, the luxury hotel opened in January 2022 and features a spa with heated pool, several restaurants and bars, and afternoon tea at £50 a head. Its website bills the venue as a destination “where history and iconic elegance merge”.
Conservative Party donor Arora, its 61-year-old owner, arrived from India as a teenager and built his fortune from Arora Group, a business spanning hotels, construction and property. He started out as a junior clerk at British Airways while holding down a second evening job as a wine waiter.
Arora Group specialised in building hotels near airports where they could provide easily accessible accommodation for flight crew.
Following the Runnymede planning authority’s announcement, Arora issued a statement saying: “We are truly sorry for the mistakes made during the construction of the Fairmont Windsor Park. It was a highly challenging construction site being developed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are now constructively engaging with Runnymede council and other local stakeholders to find mutually acceptable solutions to the planning concerns which have been raised.
“The hotel is a fantastic property. We want to ensure it continues serving the local area and bringing significant economic benefits to Runnymede,” it added.
“We remain extremely proud of it but also accept the need to remedy our mistakes.”