Group threatens Westminster council with judicial review on heels of Prince Charles’ intervention

Local residents are threatening to take legal action against Westminster council if it grants planning permission to Richard Rogers’ design for the Chelsea Barracks site in June.

The Chelsea Barracks Action Group said it would ask for a judicial review of Westminster council’s decision were it to give the green light to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ design.

The £1bn development has been plagued by controversy since the Prince of Wales wrote to the emir of Qatar, the site’s owner, to ask him to consider replacing Rogers’ “unsympathetic” modernist design with one by traditionalist architect Quinlan Terry. Qatari Diar, the site’s developer, subsequently said it was wholeheartedly committed to Rogers’ design.

The Chelsea Barracks Action Group said it had taken a barrister’s advice as to what legal route it could take to block the nine, and that further meetings with the QC had been scheduled.

Georgine Thorburn, the group’s chair, said it had received substantial financial backing from an anonymous donor, and was seeking to push the council to return to its original low-rise development brief.

She said: “We’re taking this very seriously. We’re up against a very powerful development, but we are totally committed to getting the plans back to the original brief, should the council be foolish enough to pass them.”

Claire Dutch, a partner in solicitor Lovells, said success in such cases was often 50-50, and that anyone going to court faced “severe hurdles”.

She said: “The grounds on which a third party can take the decision-maker to court are narrow. They will have to prove to a judge that the council acted unlawfully before the case can go ahead.”

Thorburn said the group would also push for Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and Hazel Blears, the community secretary, to call in the scheme.

As Building went to press, a meeting had also been scheduled with the Taxpayers Alliance – the group that is planning to sue several MPs over the expenses scandal, with a view to signing it up for the fight.

A spokesperson for Westminster council said: “It would be inappropriate to comment prior to a committee hearing.”