Cate’s bizarre haunted house reno saga

 

Exclusive: Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett has been forced to make room for bats as part of a renovation at her luxury "haunted house" in England.

The 51-year-old wants to knock down two buildings on the grounds of her sprawling country estate to put up a home office and studio, but the bats have stood in the way.

Blanchett has lodged plans to transform the dilapidated buildings on the property that she shares with her playwright husband Andrew Upton and their four children Dashiell, 18, Roman, 16, Ignatius, 12, and Edith, five.

The stylish new designs have been registered with Wealden District Council in Crowborough, 90 minutes' drive south of London.

 

Blanchett's home, Highwell House, was previously known as Steep Lodge.

The property was a run down haunted house that was a magnet for squatters, with photographs showing rubbish throughout the former grand building and pagan pentagrams drawn on the floors for seances before it was renovated.

Planning documents show that "new bat roosting opportunities will be provided within the new building (at least 1X integrated bat box)".

 

‘Must have bat box’. The mansion owned by Australian actress Cate Blanchett in East Sussex. Picture: Knight Frank
‘Must have bat box’. The mansion owned by Australian actress Cate Blanchett in East Sussex. Picture: Knight Frank

 

Inside Cate’s luxe English home. Picture: Knight Frank
Inside Cate’s luxe English home. Picture: Knight Frank

The 4m wide room will replace two buildings and will be a total of 135m2.

"Proposals include the demolition of two existing buildings; a dilapidated cottage and a shed, currently in use as a workshop, to allow for the construction of ancillary residential accommodation and gardens," the application states.

The plans detail the special licence needed to pass the council's rules in red-tape that would be at home in an episode of famous British sitcom Yes, Minister.

"Emergence and return-to-roost surveys, alongside DNA analysis of droppings, have confirmed the presence of a common pipistrelle bat summer roost and a potential occasional brown longeared bat feeding roost," documents lodged with the council state.

 

Cate Blanchett has lodged plans with Wealden Council over her bid to knock down two buildings at her property Highwell House.
Cate Blanchett has lodged plans with Wealden Council over her bid to knock down two buildings at her property Highwell House.

 

The plans at the historic country estate had to be modified to allow for a bat colony that used one of the buildings.
The plans at the historic country estate had to be modified to allow for a bat colony that used one of the buildings.

 

Cate Blanchett has lodged these plans with Wealden Council over her bid to knock down two buildings at her property Highwell House.
Cate Blanchett has lodged these plans with Wealden Council over her bid to knock down two buildings at her property Highwell House.

 

"A European Protected Species (EPS) Licence from Natural England will be required to allow the buildings to be demolished, as part of this a Mitigation Strategy including prescriptions for working methods, timing, mitigation and compensation measures will be produced."

The documents revealed that there was unlikely to be a problem with the building work as long as the bats' habitat was protected.

Blanchett, who has been involved in a new Netflix production of Pinocchio due out next year, purchased the property in Crowborough in 2016 for $5.4 million in 2016.

However, it was a downsizing in price for the actress, who along with Upton ran the Sydney Theatre Company.

The couple sold their Hunters Hill property in Sydney for $20 million in 2015.

Highwell House had undergone substantial renovations before she shelled out for the property.

However, Blanchett also did her own additions, with 88 double glazed windows installed in 2017, according to council documents.

The kitchen was also moved to a room that had previously been used as a ladies sitting room.

She told former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on her podcast in June that she had cut her head with a chainsaw while working on the property.

"I had a bit of a chainsaw accident yesterday, which sounds very, very exciting, but it wasn't. Apart from the little nick to the head, I'm fine."

Blanchett has also been working on a film called Don't Look Up, about a group of astronomers who warn the world it was about to be hit by a giant meteorite.

The film also stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill and Jennifer Lawrence.

Blanchett has also worked on Nightmare Alley, a new film with Bradley Cooper.

Neighbours had until this week to respond to the plans.

stephen.drill@news.com.au

Originally published as Cate's bizarre haunted house reno saga

Renos on Cate Blanchett’s UK property need to take bats into account. Picture: Knight Frank
Renos on Cate Blanchett’s UK property need to take bats into account. Picture: Knight Frank


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