David Cameron‘s multimillionaire friend has insisted the money earned from building 28 luxury homes will benefit the public by helping to restore his Grade II-listed manor house in the countryside.
Nicholas Johnston has claimed that despite owning two massive country estates, he doesn’t have the funds to restore his 4,000-acre Great Tew estate in the Cotswold Hills, Oxfordshire.
So the Old Etonian announced he plans to refurbish his manor with profits earned from a proposed £56million ‘world-class car museum’ that includes upmarket holiday lodges, as he says the restoration will be a public service.
The action has angered locals as it is common practice for big-time property tycoons to use a portion of the development funds to bankroll local parks, donate to schools or other initiatives for the community.
Mr Johnston told the [local] paper: ‘It is a very expensive thing to save. There isn’t the revenue from estate activities to allow the restoration of Tew Park.’
He added that if the Oxfordshire council rejects his plans, the hefty cost could fall back on the public, due to the council’s responsibility to protect listed structures, saying: ‘If I don’t have the money to do it … ultimately that falls back on the public purse.’
Mr Johnston is partnering with American billionaire Peter Mullin to build a ‘world-class car museum’ that has 28 holiday homes on site near an WWII airfield.
Mr Mullin is a vintage car enthusiast and owns a Bugatti Atlantic – there are only two in world.
The development on the estate would include a demonstration track and a suite for corporate events, as Mr Johnston claims that only owners who put their luxury cars up for sale will be able to buy a home there.
Kieran Hedigan, project director for the car museum, shot down claims the development was elitist and that Mr Johnston had ulterior motives.
In another fight over the Great Tew estate, involving rights of way access, a judge blasted Mr Johnston and said he would say ‘whatever he thought was most likely to advance his case, without regard to the truth’.
The Great Tew estate has been owned by the Johnston family since the 1960s.
Mr Johnston purchased the entire seaside village of Bantham in Devon for more than £11.5million in 2014 because he felt a sense of ‘freedom and an independence’ there.
He fought off a rival bid from the National Trust to buy the estate – which features a golf course, shop, beach and about 20 homes – and hopes his children will one day take it on as a lifelong project.