Berkshire

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber wants to buy Highclere Castle

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber
Image caption Lord Lloyd-Webber says he could help stop the proposed development

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has said he would be interested in buying Highclere Castle, if its owners would sell, to house his art collection.

Documents seen by the BBC show Lord Lloyd Webber has approached planning chiefs with an offer for the landmark on the Hampshire-Berkshire border.

Owners Earl and Countess of Carnarvon are applying for permission to build up to 15 houses on the site, near Newbury.

They want to fund much-needed repairs to some of the historic buildings.

But they have not put the castle up for sale.

The "enabling development" plan - not usually permitted - may be considered because of the benefit to the historic buildings and talks are continuing, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council said.

'Preserve the castle'

A spokeswoman said Lord Lloyd Webber, who lives on the nearby Sydmonton Court estate in Hampshire, had written to the council expressing an interest to buy the castle should it come up for sale.

In a letter to the council, Lord Lloyd Webber said: "I am longing to provide a permanent home for my art collection. The combination of Sydmonton and Highclere would provide exactly that.

Image caption The Countess of Carnarvon said they would not sell the castle

"If the Earl of Carnarvon were to sell the estate he would obviously want an open market price but this has not been tested.

"I must declare an interest bearing in mind that I could provide a secure future for the castle without any development of this kind in an AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty].

"The enabling development proposal for Highclere would not affect me directly but if there is another way to preserve the castle and at the same time prevent development in an AONB, I do believe it is at least worth discussing."

The Countess of Carnarvon said she would be willing to sell Lord Lloyd Webber a small patch of the land, but would not be willing to sell him the castle.

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