Riba president says Prince of Wales appears to have brought 'inappropriate pressure' to planning process

The president of the Riba has criticised the Prince of Wales for “inappropriate pressure” on the planning process over his decision to interfere with Qatari Diar’s Chelsea Barracks development.

Riba president Ruth Reed was commenting on court documents released this week as the trial commenced between Candy Brothers development vehicle CPC and QD over the termination of the development.

Reed said: “If the evidence presented is correct, it appears the Prince of Wales has brought inappropriate pressure to bear on the democratic planning process.

“The Chelsea Barracks developers chose not to proceed with the original design, which had been through extensive consultation and design review, and that was their prerogative. However, behind the scenes influence would have been a huge hurdle to consider. No individual should use their position in public life to influence a democratic process such as planning.”

Court documents show Prince Charles not only wrote to the owner of QD, the emir of Qatar, but also lobbied him via his private secretary Sir Michael Peat during a face to face meeting at Clarence House.

The Prince’s original letter, dated March 1 2009, said: “I am so sorry to have to write to you on this subject, and thus to be so interfering, but it is a site of great importance in London… I can only urge you to reconsider the plans for the Chelsea site before it is too late. Many would be eternally grateful to Your Excellency if Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment could bequeath a unique and enduring legacy to London …”

Sir Michael Peat later told QD that the prince was prepared to “fight them to the finish” on the development. The prince met with the Emir of Qatar on May 11 to continue his lobbying efforts.

The Chelsea Barracks planning application was withdrawn on June 12, days before a decision was due by Westminster Council.