British millionaire who won legal battle to destroy chateau speaks out

‘We wanted tranquillity. He put 132 speakers in his garden’: British millionaire who won legal battle to destroy neighbour’s £48m French X-Factor chateau says she was fed up with his 5am parties and wanted to protect the environment

  • Caroline Butt and her husband Stephen have won a 14-year legal battle against their neighbour Patrick Diter 
  • A French court ruled Diter had expanded his chateau without permission and built through protected woods
  • Mrs Butt said Diter had staged wild parties in his garden blaring music from 132 speakers into the morning
  • She said it was not about who has ‘not about who has the biggest house’ but about the environment and law 
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Caroline Butt and her husband Stephen, pictured together, have won a long-running legal battle with their French neighbour over his illegally-built chateau 

A British millionaire who won a 14-year battle in France to have her neighbour’s luxury chateau pulled down has said she was trying to protect the environment. 

Caroline Butt and her husband Stephen are celebrating after a French court ordered businessman Patrick Diter to pull down the £48million property in Grasse. 

The Chateau Diter has been used for high society weddings and appeared on The X Factor in 2017 but the owner was found to have rebuilt it without a planning permit and built a road through protected woodland. 

Mrs Butt said Diter had staged wild parties in his garden, blasting out music from 132 speakers, and left the British couple ‘unable to enjoy our own home’.  

Speaking to MailOnline today she said the issue was over ‘protecting the environment and respecting the law’ and ‘not about who has the biggest house’. 

Revealing her troubles with Mr Diter she said: ‘He has 132 speakers in the garden. One of the reasons we bought our home was because of the peace and tranquility. We have spent 16 years reshaping a rustic place with passion.

‘Sometimes the music is so loud 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 his was our home. We use it, our children use it and we have friends always visiting. It is our legacy and we do not want to give it up.  

‘We were only there last weekend and we mostly use it during the season from April to October. We could go anywhere in the world so why would we be jealous of his house?

‘We have a lot of neighbours who have been involved in the legal battle.’   


Condemned: An overhead view of the sprawling Chateau Diter in the south of France which will have to be demolished after its owner lost a 14-year legal battle with his British neighbours 


The £48million Chateau Diter palace must be demolished within 18 months, a French appeals court has ruled




French businessman Patrick Diter (right) has been fined more than £350,000 after the legal action launched by British millionaires Stephen (left) and Caroline Butt 

She declined to say how much they had spent on legal fees, but added: ‘Everyone knows how expensive lawyers can be.’ 

Mrs Butt, who has dual French-British nationality, said she was particularly upset when Diter put in a tarmac road that meant hundreds of trees were felled.  

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The couple, who have a £10milion townhouse in Kensington, West London, bought their home nestling in green hills, olive groves and vineyards in 2001. 

The faux chateau, which boasts landscaped gardens, swimming pools, luxury lounges and bedrooms and a heliport, sits just below the Butts’ home near the town of Grasse, the perfume capital of France. 

They have had little contact with Mr Ditier who has rented out the palace to filmmakers and also for extravagant weddings. 


Patrick Diter is pictured at the chateau in 2017 with his wife Monica and their daughter Lou-Adele


The Tuscan property, which boasts three pools and two helipads needs to be torn down because it was constructed in a protected wooded area

Despite the appeals court ruling that orders Diter to demolish his home and an illegally built access road within 18 months, Mrs Butt expects the legal battle to continue.

She said her neighbour has already made submissions to a higher court in France to get the ruling overturned.

‘It has been a long battle and it is not over yet,’ she said.

‘This is not just about Stephen and I but all the neighbours who have been affected. It is not just our peace that has been affected but also all the other neighbours. We have nothing against the man but just how he does it.

‘He has a right to live in his property but all we have ever asked for is for the law to be upheld. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe is right and see the law upheld.’  

The chateau must be torn down because its tycoon owner, Patrick Diter, failed to get planning permission before it was constructed in a protected wooded area in 2005, the Aix-en-Provence court of appeal ruled on Monday.   


The site used to be home to a 2,700 sq ft farm until it was developed into a renaissance castle with sprawling grounds and enough space to play host to 2,000 revellers


The sprawling property features a swimming pool and numerous carefully maintained gardens

It appeared on The X Factor in 2017 when Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole flew out to the south of France to film some of the talent contest.  

The British couple, who are hedge fund managers in London, were appalled when the millionaire started hosting disruptive mega parties for the rich and famous.  

French businessman Diter now has 18 months to demolish the estate, which was often used by oligarchs and their loved ones for weddings and film production companies for more than £40,000 per day.    

Diter has been fined more than £350,000 and if the palatial property is not knocked down in 18 months, he will face fines of up to £500 a day, French media reported. 

Prosecutor Pierrre-Jean Gaury described Diter’s palace as a ‘pharaonic project, delusional, totally illegal and built illegally,’ according to French media

It had been built in violation of urban planning regulations as well as of safety and environmental rules by an owner whose ‘only concern is money’, he said.  


One of the swimming pools at the Chateau Diter with archways, staircases and Renaissance-style statues around the edge


One of the palatial rooms in the chateau, including a giant portrayal of an ostrich and a range of other decorations

Another court official had compared him in 2016 to ‘motorists who drive without a licence’ after he was accused of building on his site without the correct permits. 

But Diter had previously hit back at Mr Butt, saying: ‘The truth is that I built something better than him. He is jealous of my property and it’s a question of yours is bigger than mine. It’s all about egos. I want to make my wine and olive oil in peace, that’s all.’     

Mrs Butt and her husband – reported by Paris Match to have a fortune worth up to half a billion pounds – were each awarded £15,000 in damages.   

The site used to be home to a 2,700 sq ft farm until it was developed into a renaissance castle with sprawling grounds, three swimming pools, two helipads and enough space to play host to 2,000 revellers. 

During the renovation Diter claimed he had cleaned up the property as it was ‘infested with snakes and insects’ and added thousands of trees to the woodland.

He also claimed he had been given ‘verbal’ permission to expand the property.  


Patrick Diter (right) with his wife Monica (left) and daughter Lou-Adele (centre) at the luxury French property in 2017


Lavish: The chateau has many antique-filled reception rooms and lounges and can host 2,000 people for a wide range of events


Patrick Diter plays a grand piano in one of the rooms of his chateau, with a huge painting in the background 


A view of the Renaissance-style buildings and one of the swimming pools at the chateau which will now have to go 


Patrick Diter stands in front of a digger at the luxury property in 2017 amid the ongoing legal battle over the chateau 

But the court found that 32,000 square feet of accommodation would have to go, as well as a helipad, a swimming pool and a road to the property which runs through a protected wood. 

The original, much smaller building can remain standing.     

Diter and his Italian wife reportedly settled in the farmhouse in 2000 when their daughter was born before beginning the renovation and additions in 2005. 

He sold 20 acres of the land to the British couple in 2004 – who said they were initially on good terms – and used the money to begin his building work. 

Speaking to the Telegraph in 2015, Mrs Butt said: ‘We helped each other out. I remember lodging one of his babysitters. 

‘But each time we came back from London, we noticed the presence of a new building – a pavilion, a tower.’  

Mr Butt was described in 2014 as ‘one of the City’s richest men’, building a fortune from asset management company Silchester International Investors, the company he founded in 1994.   


Decadent: Once a humble farmhouse the site was transformed into a beautiful mansion with green gardens by businessman Patrick Diter


Comfort: As well as reception rooms, the mansion has a range of bedrooms and plush bathrooms for guests to relax in after lavish parties


Patrick Diter is photographed with his wife Monica in the kitchen of the controversial chateau in Grasse in 2017

According to Nice Matin, another neighbour, Anne-Marie Sohn, had become aware of the building work in 2005 when construction equipment started hitting against her wall. 

She reportedly then investigated the missing building permit and alerted local authorities.  

Among those said to have hosted weddings at the chateau are Italian rugby player Mirco Bergamasco and tycoon Kimi Grover who wed his son Kunal to Ria Dubash with many stars of the Bollywood film industry in attendance. 

It was also hired out by a TV crew to be used in episodes of The Crossing, a crime series starring Donald Sutherland.       

In addition it has been used as a hotel, with 18 deluxe suites offered on its website as well as a ‘large medieval cloister’ which could host a private function.  


A view out of one of the windows, with a decorative dining table in the foreground and a picturesque view behind it 


Patrick Diter and his wife Monica in a living room of their chateau in the south of France in September 2017 

The website says: ‘The landscaped gardens are hugely impressive with beautiful fountains, Roman columns and a renaissance theme, allowing guests to enjoy the tranquillity and take in the sumptuous surroundings, while the courtyard and pool come into their own at nightfall, with beautiful lighting, overlooked by the dramatic bell tower and chateau.

‘The impressive Renaissance property is characterised by an elegant atmosphere created by the opulent furniture, imposing fireplaces, Venetian chandeliers and wonderful frescoes.

‘Creating a real sense of luxury and decadence, guests can relax in style, with everything they could need for the perfect holiday.

‘The chateau features a main reception room, comfortable lounges, a library, featuring a 15th century fireplace, and spacious dining rooms.

‘It also features a TV room, a cellar with a wine tasting room and a well equipped kitchen overlooking the Italian garden.’ 


A night-time view of Patrick Diter’s chateau in the south of France for which he allegedly did not have proper permission 


The entire property will need to be demolished within 18 months or Diter will face daily fines. Pictured: One of the lavish mansion’s many grand living rooms 


A covered outdoor area in the property which features tables, chandeliers and a statue as well as painted walls 


A grand room in the Renaissance-style property which includes arches in the walls and an extravagant chandelier 

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