THE Duke of Westminster heads up Cheshire's Rich List for 2005 with estimated assets worth £5.6 billion.

Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, whose family seat is at Eaton Hall, near Chester, has become Britain's richest property developer by taking the long view.

That's the opinion of Rich List compiler Philip Beresford, who has put together the top 50 list for Cheshire Life magazine. Plans for a £40m apartment complex in Sydney show the Grosvenor Group is making itself felt on a global scale. Closer to home, Grosvenor has unveiled plans for a massive development at Bath which could take 15-20 years to complete.

Westminster is also behind the Paradise Street development in Liverpool.

Beresford said: 'For all his riches, and the pressures that come with such a high profile inheritance, the Duke has kept his feet firmly on the ground.

'He is never happier than when at home near Chester or with the Territorial Army.'

Fellow entrepreneurs Duncan Cameron and Simon Nixon, who co-founded Ewloe-based are third and fourth on the list respectively.

Cameron and Nixon, both from Chester, set up the web-site that compares prices of financial products and takes a cut on ones sold through it.

Unlike many dotcom companies, it made a profit of £9m on £40m sales in 2003. For Nixon, dropping out of university proved his passport to a fortune. He became a financial adviser and with Cameron, the brother of a girl-friend, he launched Mortgage 2000 which evolved into today's internet-based wonder company.

Doing less well in the financial stakes than his aristocratic neighbour the Duke of Westminster, but still avoiding skid row by some margin is the Marquess of Cholmondeley, who owns estates in Cheshire and Norfolk.

The seventh marquess, who comes in at 22nd, inherited £118m from his father's will in 1990.

Businessman Steve Morgan, who has assets worth £340m, has been renovating Carden Hall to live in with his wife Fiona but is excluded from the Cheshire list, presumably because he is considered to be mainly Jersey-based. Merseyside-born Mr Morgan is best known for his failed attempt to take over Liverpool FC.