Mr Ratcliffe – previously described by the Rich List as “publicity shy” and having grown up “on a council estate in Greater Manchester” – has leapt up from 18th position last year after seeing his wealth rise by £15.3bn to £21.05bn in a single year.
His increased wealth is down to the successes of Ineos, the London-headquartered chemicals company which is currently locked in a legal battle with the Scottish government over its moratorium on fracking.
Mr Ratcliffe is chairman and CEO. The company’s director Andy Currie and finance director John Reece were also pushed into the list’s top 20, taking joint 6th place with fortunes of £7bn each.
In second place were Sri and Gopi Hinduja whose personal wealth was valued at £20.64bn, up £4.44bn from last year.
Sir Len Balvatnik was listed in third place at £15.26bn, after being knighted this year for services to philanthropy.
The top 20 individuals listed on the Rich List are now worth a combined £218.6bn.
Of the 1,000 people on the list, more are billionaires (145) than women (141) with Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken the highest ranked at six with £11.1bn alongside her husband, Michel de Carvalho, the vice chairman of Citigroup.
Meanwhile, disgraced ex-BHS boss Sir Philip Green’s wealth tumbled £787m to £2bn following sales failures at Topshop and Miss Selfridge, as well as a commitment to paying £363m to settle the BHS pension scheme.
Jamie Oliver left the list completely as his restaurant business is still undergoing restructuring after slipping into more than £70m in debt.
The aristocrat land-owner Hugh Grosvenor, the 7th Duke of Westminster, remains the UK’s youngest billionaire.
The 27-year-old inherited his fortune two years ago through a trust which listed him as a beneficial, rather than legal, owner – exempting him from paying 40% inheritance tax.
The Grosvenor Estate includes large holdings in London, including 300 acres in Mayfair and Belgravia, as well as properties in Oxford, Cheshire, Scotland and Spain.
The Rich List says that his wealth grew by £444m over the last year to £9.96bn.
Robert Watts, who compiled the list, said: “Britain is changing. Gone are the days when old money and a small band of industries dominated the Sunday Times Rich List.
“Aristocrats and inherited wealth has been elbowed out of the list and replaced by an army of self-made entrepreneurs.
“Today’s super rich include people who have set up businesses selling chocolate, sushi, pet food and eggs.
“We’re seeing more people from humble backgrounds, who struggled at school or who didn’t even start their businesses until well into middle age.
“Meanwhile, technology is also playing a bigger part in helping more young people make their fortunes and small companies to grow.
“Britain’s rich are getting richer, but the cast of Britain’s 1,000 richest people is an ever-changing and increasingly diverse cast of people.”
The paper said that London was now the number one city in the world for billionaires, with some 93 billionaires born, living or with their businesses based in London, ahead of New York in second.