Nimbyism doesn’t get much starrier than the feud between Robbie Williams and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.
For more than three years, the next-door neighbours have been squabbling over Williams’s renovations to his 47-room London mansion, Woodland House – a building with a fascinating history that takes in more than a hundred years of bohemian mudslinging.
The previous owner, Death Wish director Michael Winner, had wanted it to be turned into a museum of his life and work.
Instead, following Winner’s death in 2013, it was bought by Williams – who went on to upset his widow Geraldine Winner by chopping down palm trees the director had planted and lovingly tended for 35 years.
A bit of tree-lopping was the least of his changes.
As of last year, Williams had submitted no fewer than 39 planning applications, including for a shed on stilts – and been opposed at almost every turn by Page. The reason? Bad vibes.
The Grade I listed Gothic property Page bought in 1972, The Tower House, has a turret that’s straight out of a fairy-tale.
Drawing on evidence from an English Heritage report, Page believes his home’s delicate designs and frescoes “would be highly vulnerable to any movement of the walls”.
The rocker is apparently so anxious to avoid any harmful vibrations that he never plays electric guitar inside the house, gently strumming an acoustic instead.
There have been minor victories for the pop star (a new garage, winning Geraldine’s approval on Twitter), and for Page (blocking plans for a new window, making sure Williams’s builders were fined £3,000 for knocking down a shed on a Sunday).
For anyone interested in planning permission, the ins and outs of the dispute have been documented in obsessive detail on a Led Zeppelin fan-site.
The low point in their feud came in 2016, when off-air comments Williams made during a visit to an Italian radio station made their way into the press.
“So, um, Jimmy has been sitting in his car outside our house with the windows down, four hours at a time with recording equipment,” he claimed.
“He’s recording the workmen to see if they’re making too much noise. And also two weeks ago, the builders came in and he was asleep in his garden, waiting. Honestly, it’s like a mental illness.”
When the rocker took legal action over his remarks, Williams was forced to issue an apology, clarifying that some of his claims “were in fact not true”.
The main bone of contention between them has been Williams’s long-held desire to build a two-storey basement under his garden, complete with subterranean swimming-pool.
In 2016, one waggish street artist stuck up a poster of the stars, with the slogan “let me excavate you” – but Page wasn’t entertained.
He claims the excavation would be “catastrophic” for the area, and says he fears it could damage his own “fragile” home. It now looks like Williams will need to have a little patience; this Tuesday, the council deferred a decision over the basement plans.
Williams paid £17.5 million for the property. If he is still living there in 2046, he may have to fork out an even larger sum, or else it could slip through the septuagenarian pop star’s fingers: that’s the year that the leasehold – worth an estimated £15 million in 2013 – will expire.
Part of the tension between Williams and Page may come from a perception that Page has the better house – and wants to keep it that way. It’s been estimated that The Tower House could go for upwards of £20 million, if Page ever decides to sell it. But the rock star seems unlikely to do so, taking his role as “custodian” of the historic property very seriously indeed.