Crumbling Sussex mansion abandoned by millionaire developer 'is UK's biggest slum' and is 'magnet for drug abuse'

24 February 2024, 10:49

Hamilton Palace is said to be abandoned
Hamilton Palace is said to be abandoned. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A vacant Sussex mansion owned by a billionaire friend of Robert Mugabe has become "the biggest slum in Britain," locals have complained.

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Hamilton Palace has been under construction since 1985, but its owner, property developer Nicholas van Hoogstraten, lives in Zimbabwe and appears to have abandoned it.

His neighbours have complained that local people have taken to breaking in, taking drugs and drinking - and say it's unsafe.

Others have called for the council to intervene, but the local authority said that any possible criminal activity in the mansion, near Uckfield in East Sussex, is a matter for the police.

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Hamilton Palace in East Sussex.
Hamilton Palace in East Sussex. Picture: Getty

One resident told the Mail: "The place is an eyesore and a wreck and it has blighted this area for as along as I can remember.

"But now it has started attracting youths who break into the estate to consume drugs and alcohol.

"The buildings look highly dangerous and I think it's only a matter of time before someone is injured or worse on the estate."

Another local, a mother, said she was worried that the house "is not secure".

She added that "fencing is always being ripped down and youths get onto the land and head to the house.

"During the warmer months there are always youths hanging around with bottles of cider and beer smoking marijuana. The place has become a magnet for kids with nothing better to do."

Hamilton Palace in East Sussex.
Hamilton Palace in East Sussex. Picture: Getty

She said it was "high time the local authority did some checks on the property to ascertain its security and safety because youths who get in there could be killed."

Another said: "It must be the biggest slum in Britain... I feel the council have bent over backwards for this man because they are a little bit scared of him and his wealth."

A fourth told the paper: "It sticks out like a sore thumb on the landscape. I feel like nothing will ever be done with it."

Hamilton Palace
Hamilton Palace. Picture: Getty

Wealden Council said: "Hamilton Palace is not located in a densely populated area. The closest public right of way is situated to the very east of the estate, divided from the main building on site by several field parcels and blocks of woodland.

"However, if there are concerns about a dangerous structure, this can be reported to the Council and we will investigate further.

"With regard to anti-social and or unlawful behaviour, this is a police enforcement matter."

Hamilton Palace near Uckfield, East Sussex
Hamilton Palace near Uckfield, East Sussex. Picture: Alamy

The mansion is thought to be owned by an investment firm run by Mr van Hoogstraten's children.

The developer previously dismissed concerns that Hamilton Palace was "crumbling", saying it "was built to last for at least 2,000 years.

He said: "The scaffolding only remains as a part of ongoing routine maintenance such a property would require until completion."

In 2016, he said: "'Even the most moronic of peasants would be able to see from the pictures that we have been busy landscaping the grounds of the Palace."

Nicholas van Hoogstraten
Nicholas van Hoogstraten. Picture: Alamy

Mr van Hoogstraten, 75, has also ruled out offering the mansion as a place for homeless people or refugees to stay.

He made his money in the 1960s as a landlord, and has had several brushes with the law, including a four-year jail sentence in 1986 for threatening with a grenade someone who was said to have owed him money.

Mr van Hoogstraten was also convicted of the manslaughter of a rival landlord in 2002, before his conviction was overturned.

He bought an estate in Zimbabwe and became friends with notorious former-president Robert Mugabe.

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