IT is a mansion bigger than Buckingham Palace built by a notorious slum landlord once dubbed Britain’s youngest millionaire.
Yet photos show the £40million mansion in East Sussex lying empty and unfinished 35 years after work began.
Hamilton Palace, near Uckfield, was constructed to house property tycoon Nicholas Van Hoogstraten’s art collection and to be his own mausoleum.
However, he has fired a succession of architects and quantity surveyors and fell out with his builders.
To the anger of the local community, work on the mansion halted in 2001.
Mr Van Hoogstraten, 75, who was once on first-name terms with Robert Mugabe and lives most of the time in Zimbabwe, made huge sums of money as a slum landlord and his fortune was once estimated at £500million.
In an interview earlier this year, he said: “I own nearly everything around here (in Sussex), and by own it, I mean own it – there’s no mortgage on anything. It’s one of the reasons why nobody can tell me what to do. I don’t have to be nice to anybody.”
Local residents complained it was a disgrace Hamilton Palace was being left to rot.
One fumed: “With all the housing problems we have in this country surely the building can be put to good use. It’s a disgrace that it’s just going to ruin.”
In response, the property tycoon shot back: “Hamilton Palace is far from ‘crumbling’ and was built to last for at least 2,000 years. The scaffolding only remains as a part of ongoing routine maintenance such a property would require until completion.”
Responding to suggestions that the house – now dubbed the “ghost house of Sussex” – should be used for the homeless, he added: “The ‘homeless’ – the majority of whom are so by their own volition or sheer laziness – are one of the filthiest burdens on the public purse today. The chance of my offering an opportunity for them to occupy Hamilton Palace is just ludicrous.
“Likewise, my offering accommodation to these Muslim ‘migrants’ and to encourage their besiegement of our country and the unwarranted plundering of its resources is ridiculous. We should remove them all.”
Twice-married Mr Van Hoogstraten – who has changed his name to Nicholas Adolf von Hessen – handed over many of his UK businesses to his children in 2002 after he was jailed for hiring a hitman to kill former business partner Mohammed Sabir Raja.
He was released on appeal and cleared at retrial.
However in 2005 a High Court civil judge ruled Mr van Hoogstraten was responsible for recruiting the hitman after Mr Raja’s family sued him for £6million.
That was not his first brush with the law. At the age of 22, he was jailed for four years for ordering a grenade attack on a rabbi whose son allegedly owed him cash.
Hamilton Palace is now owned by a holding company with four of his adult children as directors. His youngest child is 11.
Mr Von Hoogstraten, who once admitted removing tenants by setting German shepherd dogs on them, was cleared of abusive behaviour in March this year after he called a police officer a “poofter”.