Duke of Westminster's property firm sued for 'nuisance'

Billionaire Duke of Westminster’s property firm is ordered to pay £13,200 to millionaire lawyer, 62, who sued him over ‘nuisance’ caused by ‘prostitutes and pimps’ next door to his £4.4m Mayfair mews house

  • Lawyer Peter Clifford, 62, sued the Duke of Westminster’s property company
  • He claims anti-social behaviour in a nearby block of flats caused a ‘nuisance’
  • Mr Clifford’s £4.4million Mayfair townhouse is next door to Bloomsfield Court 
  • The Duke denied the claims, but was ordered to pay £13,200 in compensation

The Duke of Westminster’s property company has been ordered to pay over £13,000 after a millionaire neighbour claimed that prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers invaded his ‘high-class’ Mayfair street.

Businessman and lawyer Peter Clifford, 62, sued over ‘nuisance’ caused by visitors to a block of flats next door to his £4.4m three-bed mews house in the heart of Mayfair.

He said his life had been blighted by ‘seedy’ goings-on next door which are owned through a company by Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminster, and a godfather to Prince George.

On one occasion Mr Clifford said he spotted a ‘pimp’ standing just three metres away from his window.

He claimed the billionaire duke’s company, Grosvenor West End Properties didn’t do enough to stamp out the anti-social behaviour, which was out of keeping with otherwise ‘high-class’ Bourdon Street.

Following a trial at Central London County Court, a judge said the duke’s company did not take ‘reasonable steps’ quickly enough to clean up the area.

Judge Mark Raeside KC ordered the company to pay Mr Clifford £13,200 in compensation, but rejected a claim to a much bigger payment after finding that the problems were ‘transitory’ and not permanent enough to affect the value of his house.

Lawyer and businessman Peter Clifford, 62, (pictured outside court) sued the Duke of Westminster’s property company over ‘nuisance’ caused by ‘prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers’ outside his home

The Duke, Hugh Grosvenor, (pictured) must pay £13,200 after a judge found his property company did not do enough to abate the anti-social behaviour at the flats, Bloomfield Court, which are next to Mr Clifford’s Bourdon Street home

Grosvenor West End Properties is part of the Grosvenor Group, which traces its history back to 1677 and owns huge amounts of prime real estate in the centre of London.

Outlining the case during the trial, Mr Clifford’s barrister Tiffany Scott KC said Bourdon Street had been described by estate agents as ‘one of the most prestigious’ addresses in Mayfair and a ‘centre for contemporary art.’

As well as owning the Bloomfield Court block of 12 flats, Grosvenor is also the freeholder of Mr Clifford’s leasehold mews house next door in the ‘quiet’ residential street, where he moved in 2003.

But she said anti-social activities had been linked to the block over the years which were ‘inconsistent with the quiet and high-class residential character of the area.’

They included drug dealing, prostitution, unauthorised short-term lettings to ‘unwanted Air BnB holidaymakers,’ loud parties and even threats of physical violence to neighbouring residents.

And she claimed Grosvenor had not done enough to tackle the problems.

Mr Clifford’s white Mayfair townhouse (right) next to Bloomfield Court (left), a block of flats owned by the Hugh Grosvenor’s property company

‘The defendant has taken no measures to stop a very regular stream of people from entering the building, despite knowing that they are visiting either to occupy the flats on prohibited short-term holiday lets or else for the purposes of drug-taking, partying, prostitution or other nuisance-causing activities,’ she said.

‘The defendant allows them up the entrance steps, into the courtyard, into the building, into the lift, and through the corridors.

‘The people about whose behaviour the claimant complains, as well as the problematic behaviour itself, are emanating from the common parts of the building.’

Giving evidence, Mr Clifford said he had seen men going into the block with prostitutes, drug deals taking place in public and drunk people, ‘totally out of control.’

Things got so bad that his master bedroom was rendered ‘uninhabitable’ by the noise outside, with a ‘pimp’ once stood just three metres away from his window, he said.

He had to install CCTV cameras to deter bad behaviour and had retreated from the master bedroom at the front of his house due to the disturbances outside Bloomfield Court.

‘This particular block is perfect for organised crime,’ he told the judge.

‘It has no 24-hour concierge. It is the type of property that is targeted for exactly the kind of nuisance we received.’

Grosvenor is also the freeholder of Mr Clifford’s house (pictured) in the ‘quiet’ residential street, where he moved in 2003

For Grosvenor, barrister Thomas Braithwaite said the worst of Mr Clifford’s complaints had reached a ‘nadir’ in 2020 and 2021 but that things had been much improved after the cameras were installed in October last year.

He denied that the company had not taken ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure Mr Clifford’s ‘quiet enjoyment’ of his home was not interfered with by ‘nuisance’ from next door.

The case was heard in a four-day trial by Judge Raeside and he has now ruled in Mr Clifford’s favour, saying there is no doubt but that the three main allegations – prostitution, loud parties and unlawful short-term letting – had occurred.

‘It’s impossible, given the wealth of evidence, to come to any other view than that all three took place at times between March 2018 and January 2021,’ he said.

‘It is quite clear Grosvenor knew about these matters over that three-year period.’

He said Grosvenor had taken steps to try to eradicate the nuisance and that, following the installation of CCTV cameras last year, the type of nuisance suffered was ‘radically different’ to the serious complaints of crime earlier.

Grosvenor West End is part of the Grosvenor Group, which traces its history back to 1677 and owns huge amounts of prime real estate in the centre of London. The duke’s family’s wealth has been estimated at £10 billion. (Pictured: the duke in 2018)

But firm steps should have been taken sooner, which would have helped reduce the level of nuisance Mr Clifford was subjected to, he continued.

An ‘obvious step’ – now being considered by Grosvenor – would have been to introduce a key fob system to keep out those ‘with no right to enter those flats,’ he said.

‘There were generally further steps, which have proven successful, that could and should have been taken earlier by Grosvenor to abate this nuisance,’ he said.

Judge Raeside awarded Mr Clifford £12,600 in compensation for having to vacate his master bedroom due to the disturbances.

And he awarded another £600 in general damages for his distress and loss of amenity.

A further hearing will take place in the coming weeks to decide who has to pay the substantial legal costs of the case and whether Grosvenor should be forced by court order to take any particular steps to eradicate further nuisance at the block.

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