Chelsea Barracks saga: Rogers seeks £1.5 million from Qataris
Double Stirling Prize winner Richard Rogers has taken the first ‘legal step’ in a bid to recover more than £1.5 million in unpaid fees after being kicked off the controversial Chelsea Barracks project
According to The Times, his practice Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners (RSHP) has asked London law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain to try and recover the money allegedly owed to them following the decison by development backers Qatari Diar to drop them.
The firm had worked on the £1 billion scheme in West London for two and a half years before being ditched – a decision which Rogers has openly blamed on Prince Charles’ meddling.
A spokesperson for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners said: ‘We can confirm that we have instructed legal advisers,Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, to formally advise Qatari Diar of the outstanding fees for our work on Project Blue (Chelsea Barracks) and hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and satisfactorily.’
The news is the latest twist in the long-running saga surrounding the contentious project. As a result of Rogers’ departure Project Blue, the owner and developer of the Chelsea Barracks site, has started a new search for a design team to take the scheme forward.
Nobody from the developers was available for comment.
Previous story (12.06.09)
Prince Charles gets his way: Chelsea Barracks scheme scrapped
Richard Rogers’ controversial Chelsea Barracks scheme is killed as developer withdraws planning application. Full coverage plus rolling updates
Project Blue, the owner and developer of the Chelsea Barracks site has announced in a statement released this morning (June 12) that ‘after extensive and ongoing consultations with the stakeholders, it has withdrawn its current planning application for the site’.
Project Blue acknowledged the ‘differing views’ that were held over the plans and said it is already in discussion with the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, to find a solution. Prince Charles, president of the Foundation was a leading critic of the scheme. Project Blue also confirmed it will be conducting a comprehensive review of its plans and will be working closely with Westminster City Council.
Richard Rogers’ plans for the £1 billion project has been the subject of intense speculation following Prince Charles’ criticism and subsequent private approach to the developer Qatari Diyar – which owns a majority stake in Project Blue – in support of more traditional plans drawn up by Quinlan Terry.
In April a number of the world’s top architects wrote a letter to The Sunday Times to condemn the Prince of Wales for using his ‘privileged position’ to intervene in the design process.
This was followed by rumours the design would be dropped after Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad, head of Qatari Diyar, said he was confident a solution to the design would be found that would please everyone, including Prince Charles.
‘We respect the democracy and procedures in the UK and [want to] listen and co-operate with….all parties, with Prince Charles, with the mayor, with everybody….We are following the process and procedures…we can sit around the table to get a solution for everybody.’
Today’s statement from Project Blue said: ‘Our shareholder’s vision for this site is to deliver for London a best in class, sustainable residential development that includes community facilities and brings real benefits to this part of London. We will continue our extensive consultation process with all our stakeholders, where our focus will be on building a consensus for one of the most important sites in London.’
The spokesman added that Project Blue will be inviting a number of urban planning practices to come up with a design for the site. ‘This will lead to the selection of a masterplan, which we anticipate will be submitted [to Westminster City Council] for planning consent by the end of the 2009. After the grant of initial consent we envisage that development will be undertaken on a phased basis with separate architectural practices competing for each phase.’
The move comes despite the publication yesterday (11 June) of the official planning report by Westminster Council recommending its approval.
UPDATE: 12 June 2009
Commenting on the decision AJ editor emeritus and World Architecture Festival director Paul Finch said:‘This is a dispiriting decision which will harm London’s reputation as a city which is well governed, and which hitherto has had a welcoming attitude to major overseas investors.
‘It will affect job prospects for thousands of workers in the construction and building product sectors, and delay much needed affordable housing in Westminster. The council’s positive report on the Rogers Stirk Harbour scheme was written following two years of work, extensive consultation, and a series of design revisions responding to comments and criticisms. The withdrawal of the application is the result of a highly irresponsible intervention by the Prince of Wales, which calls into question the benefits of a constitutional monarchy. The whim of a prince is no way to guide the future of a world city.’
UPDATE: 15 June 2009
The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment is to work closely with the developer Qatari Diar to deliver a scheme more focused on local community.
Hank Dittmar, chief executive of foundation said: ‘We have been invited by Qatari Diar to participate in a more open process. We will work with them to advise on masterplanning, from our core principle of involving the local community and local stakeholders in the design process.’
On 12 June, the developer Project Blue - of which Qatari Diar owns a majority stake - issued a statement that it had withdrawn its planning application for the controversial Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners £1bn residential scheme for central London. Prince Charles, president of the Foundation was a leading critic of the scheme.
The withdrawal was welcomed by the Traditional Architecture Group (TAG), which called for greater involvement by the stakeholders and local community from the outset. Alireza Sagharchi chairman of TAG said : ‘A detailed consultation exercise should now take place via a community focused design and planning process with a new masterplan taking into account the local community’s desires. The masterplan should be designed with a traditional pattern of streets and squares as well as maintaining the existing heritage and architectural character of the this quarter of Chelsea.
‘Such an approach would imbue the development and its buildings with a sense of belonging to the existing urban grain and seamlessly integrate with the surroundings. TAG believes the local community would then embrace the development as an enhancement of their environment.’
UPDATE: 16 June 2009
Richard Rogers: Prince Charles ‘single-handedly destroyed’ Chelsea Barracks
In an aggressive interview with the Guardian today (16 June) Richard Rogers said: ‘The prince does not debate and in a democracy that is unacceptable and in fact is non-constitutional. I think he pursues these topics because he is looking for a job and in that sense I sympathise with him. He is actually an unemployed individual, which says something about the state of the royal family. I don’t think he is evil per se, he is just misled.’
‘The prince always goes round the back to wield his influence, using phone calls or in the case of the Chelsea barracks, a private letter. It is an abuse of power because he is not willing to debate. He has made his representations two and a half years late and anyone but him would have been shown the door. We should examine some of the ethics of this situation. Someone who is unelected, will not debate but will use the power bestowed by his birth-right must be questioned.’
Rogers, a Labour peer in the House of Lords, has demanded a public inquiry over the Prince’s meddling in the Chelsea Barracks scheme: ‘This sort of situation is totally unconstitutional and should never happen again’.
On 12 June Rogers was effectively fired from the scheme when Qatari Diar, the client, withdrew the planning application for the development following mounting pressure from Prince Charles. The Prince had continually expressed his disdain for Rogers’ design and contacted the Qatari royal family directly to lobby for an alternate classicist proposal by Quinlain Terry.
‘When the Qataris took full control about nine months ago, I was told to keep out of the limelight and stay quiet. There was no major public relations strategy. It gave us the feeling they didn’t understand that this was a democratic process. The Qataris never sorted out the difference between royalty and government’.
Rogers said he was ‘very upset’ to be dropped from the project and claimed that after more than two years of work the Chelsea design was ‘one of the best schemes my office has ever produced‘.
‘Up to two months ago we were pretty convinced we were going to get our scheme through Westminster’s planning committee. We enjoyed some of the strongest support I have ever had from Westminster and the Greater London Authority, including the great report we had only last week from the planners, which is why I thought we were home and dry. I just don’t know what happened.’
This is not the first time that a Rogers scheme have been vetoed by the Prince. Rogers was the frontrunner to develop Paternoster Square beside St Paul’s Cathedral and the favourite to rebuild the Royal Opera House - both schemes were scupperred by the Prince. According to Rogers: ‘I was basically told: “the prince does not like you”.’
In a parting shot, Rogers took on the idea that Charles was expressing the resentment that local people felt towards the scheme: ‘The idea that he is a man of the people fascinates me,’ said Rogers, ‘he is a man of the rich people, that is for sure.’