Neighbours installed 132 speakers in their garden

By David Wilkes Time of article published Mar 30, 2019

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A British couple told of their delight yesterday after their French neighbour was ordered to demolish his £48million (R908 million) fake chateau.

Stephen Butt and his wife Caroline have fought for 14 years after parties at the huge and illegally constructed building shattered the peace of their own home on the French Riviera.

A court has now ordered its owner, French tycoon Patrick Diter, to demolish the lavish mansion, which has been used for high society weddings and appeared in films and an episode of The X Factor.

Because it was built without planning permission everything that has been added to the site since 2005 must go, including more than 32,000 sq ft of buildings, a heliport, a swimming pool and an approach road through a protected wood. An appeal court in Aix-en-Provence ruled that only a small original house, at just over 2,000 sq ft, can stay. 

Mr Diter was also fined more than £350,000 (R6 628 million) and if ‘Chateau Diter’ is not knocked down by the deadline 18 months from now he will face further fines of up to £500 (R10 000) a day.

Neighbour Mr Butt bought their idyllic French home – which nestles amid green hills, olive groves and vineyards – from Mr Diter in 2001.

The Frenchman then spent a decade turning the farmhouse and outbuildings on the land he kept into an Italian-style palazzo near the town of Grasse, the perfume capital of France. 

Mrs Butt said wild parties had been staged in Mr Diter’s garden, with loud music blasting out from 132 speakers installed all around the grounds. She said: ‘One of the reasons we bought our home was because of the peace and tranquillity. We have spent years reshaping a rustic place with passion.

‘Sometimes we cannot sit out on the terrace as all you hear is loud music. You can’t sleep and he has had parties that go on until 5am. It means you cannot enjoy your own home. Yes, we could have moved to somewhere else as we have the money to do so, but this is our home.

The Butts launched their legal action along with other neighbours and won an initial victory in 2017 when judges first ordered demolition. Mr Diter, whose appeal has now been rejected, has previously mocked Mr Butt, claiming: ‘The truth is that I built something better than him... it’s a question of yours is bigger than mine.’

Prosecutor Pierre-Jean Gaury described Diter’s palace as a ‘pharaonic project, delusional, totally illegal and built illegally’.

An owner whose ‘only concern is money’ had broken safety and environmental rules as well as planning regulations, he said. Mr Diter, who has rented out the chateau at up to £40,000 (R757 000) per day for filming and to stage extravagant weddings, is believed to have already launched moves to appeal to a higher court in France.

The chateau appeared on The X Factor in 2017 when Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole flew to the South of France to film scenes with contestants.

Mr Butt is said to be one of the UK’s richest fund managers and in 2017 he reportedly received £34million (R643 million) in dividends from Silchester International Investors, the asset management company he founded in 1994.

© Daily Mail

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