Planning has always been a national regatta for those with oars to stick in, but Charles’ Chelsea fiasco took it to a new level. Sarah Richardson compares him with the other rowers

The extent to which Prince Charles tampers with the planning process is finally emerging, thanks to the court case presently being fought over the termination of Rogers Stirk Harbour’s Chelsea Barracks scheme last year. The developer of the project, Qatari Diar, is locked in a legal battle with former partner CPC, the development vehicle of Candy & Candy. It is arguing that it did not bow to pressure from the prince to scrap the scheme; meanwhile the architecture profession in general is arguing that the prince abused his privileged position by intervening in a democratic process.

But just how much of a meddler is the prince compared with other individuals and bodies known for sticking their oar in to the planning system? Here we assess the impact - and the legitimacy - of some of the UK’s best known meddlers.

Prince Charles

Past form 5/5
The Chelsea Barracks court case is making clear just how persistent the prince can be: court documents showed that he not only wrote to the emir of Qatar, the owner of Qatari Diar, about the scheme, but also lobbied him through his private secretary and during a personal meeting at Clarence House in London.

Future prospects 4/5
Should Qatari Diar lose its case, developers may think twice about bowing to the prince’s demands. But that is unlikely to stop him trying to intervene.

Success rating 4/5
The Chelsea Barracks fiasco was the ultimate victory for Prince Charles, but other developments that he wasn’t too keen on, like 20 Fenchurch Street, went ahead anyway.

Democratic deficit 5/5
Has not stood in an election so far. And as Jack Pringle, former RIBA president, put it: “He’s in danger of operating as a second tier of planning permission, which is completely unconstitutional.”

Overall rating 18/20
(Still the man to beat, then)

Boris Johnson

Past form 3/5
Johnson was an opponent of tall buildings when campaigning to become London mayor in 2008, but has since toned down his rhetoric. However, his London View Management Framework, due for sign-off this year, increases the protection of London’s 10 existing viewing corridors, and adds other protected views.

Future prospects 3/5
The new government’s localism agenda specifically includes devolving more powers to elected mayors, so Johnson’s propensity for getting involved in controversial projects could receive a boost. However, there is no indication that he will clamp down on tall buildings as much as developers feared when he was elected.

Success rate 3/5
More successful on long-term policy changes than on individual schemes. Tried to block the £600m Beetham tower on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge in 2009, but was overruled by Hazel Blears.

Democratic deficit 0/5
He won more than 1 million votes in the 2008 mayoral election, the largest number of votes cast for one man in British history.

Overall rating 9/20

English Heritage

Past form 4/5
English Heritage’s opinion is sought as a matter of course whenever a planning application affects a listed building, and the body has thrown its tuppenceworth in to many major development proposals over the past couple of years. If it isn’t asked to get involved directly, chances are it will turn up as an expert witness in a planning inquiry. Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, compared it to the Taliban.

Future prospects 4/5
The Conservatives might want to limit the power of quangos, but they are hardly likely to scale back the influence of the guardians of England’s historic estate.

Success rate 3/5
Architects rightly fear the intervention of EH - it has been instrumental in securing the reworking of designs such as Rogers Stirk Harbour’s British Museum extension. But where it does not have such a direct connection to a project, its influence can count for much less - it was on the losing side in planning inquiries for major schemes including the Shard (which it described as a “spike in the heart”) and the Heron Tower.

Democratic deficit 3/5
An appointed quango, English Heritage has been persistently criticised for the private nature of its decision making. Although its staff are generally recognised as experts, there is concern that not all behave consistently.

Overall rating 14/20


Past form 4/5
Cabe has grown in influence over the past year, and now has the power to police a new minimum design standard for schools that, until Labour lost the election, was likely to be extended across other public buildings. Its design review process has resulted in major changes to schemes across all sectors.

Future prospects: 3/5
The Conservatives have thought out loud about making Cabe self-financing. This would reduce its ability to influence schemes, and reverse its trajectory under Labour.

Success rating 4/5
Cabe’s interventions have forced changes to projects from Viñoly’s Battersea Power Station to the Olympic media centre to countless schools and housing schemes. But its support for Richard Rogers’ reworked Chelsea Barracks designs last year was not enough to overrule Prince Charles….

Democratic deficit 2/5
Despite being an appointed quango, most architects agree that Cabe has a role to play in design. The problems arise when it seeks to overrule a (democratically elected) local authority’s wishes without paying heed to budgetary constraints or, some say, the original design brief.

Overall rating 13/20

Sport England

Past form 3/5
Sport England has a statutory role to protect playing fields, which has regularly seen it come up against architects and local authorities on the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme.

Future prospects 2/5
With the school building programme likely to be focused more around refurbishment than new build, Sport England is likely to have less opportunity to intervene.

Success rating 3/5
The statutory nature of Sport England’s role means anyone looking to build on playing fields needs to get the body’s advice, but its objections are more likely to delay progress to planning approval than scupper a scheme altogether.

Democratic deficit 2/5
Another unelected quango, but the principles on which it bases its decisions are pretty black and white - it simply has to guard against a net loss of playing fields in the UK.

Overall rating 10/20