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Prince Charles 'tried to have Jean Nouvel sacked'

The Prince lobbied for Pritzker Prize winner to be dropped from the £500 million One New Change complex beside St Paul’s Cathedral

The Guardian reports that Prince Charles wrote a private letter to Land Securities, the developers, in which he made clear he was unhappy with the choice of Nouvel, saying any design should ‘allow St Paul’s to shine bright’ and offering his own architectural advisers in case the developers ‘needed any help to think about what works best’.

‘He wrote to me at the time we selected Nouvel and suggested we should meet his preferred architects,’ Mike Hussey, then London director of Land Securities told the newspaper. ‘He hadn’t seen the scheme, he just complained about the selection of the architect. He didn’t want a modernist.’

Hussey claims the heir to the throne ‘referred us to the Paternoster Square development… He said “this is how we approached it and got it right”.’

The letter, sent in 2005, was condemned by Sunand Prassad, RIBA President as ‘brazen’ and ‘pernicious’. ‘The Prince has an unusual amount of power which, under our constitution, is not designed to be used to interfere with the running of everyday affairs in this country for the simple reason that the prince is not accountable… This is a dangerous course to go down. There was an open competition for this building and then along comes somebody with special powers seeking to influence the outcome in a blatant intervention,’ he told the Guardian.

It also emerged that Prince Charles’s architecture charity is involved in plans for more than 17,000 homes – a larger number than Persimmon, one of Britain’s largest house builders, built last year.

Readers' comments (39)

  • This is the reality of living in a society where class and deference is still a real issue: making 'modern' remains an optimistic endeavour

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  • The Guardian report is full of nonsense. Inaccurate reporting, which should be taken with a pinch of salt.

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  • Given that Finch has just been appointed Chair of CABE, the worst person possible, the country may need an influential voice to be heard against the worst sort of anti-heritage developers and starchitects, with their unpopular schemes, and ignorant Chairpersons.

    Go Charles go!

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  • charles is just a man, definitely not an authority, perhaps we should just ignore him. I know i will

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  • The point isn't about good or bad architecture, and whether you're a Modernist or Traditionalist, its the fact that a non-elected person is abusing a prominent position to bypass the planning process. Prince Charles is welcome to enter into the debate and express an opinion, as everyone is, but his personal opinion is no more valuable than any member of the public.

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  • Charles does nothing the rest of aren't entitled to do, either. I know I have tried many times to have thrown out planning applications I didn't like. It's called democracy.



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  • Charles cannot enter into the formal planning process, although there is nothing unlawful with trying to engage a developer to try to alter schemes before planning is applied for. A developer can have the freedom of choice to alter or not.

    We all have such freedom. Others do it, it's not only HRH.

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  • What UK needs unfortunately is what France went through 2 centuries ago: a revolution and the clear adoption of a democratic political system.
    David Hingamp.

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  • As far as planning goes, the current system is anything but democratic, despite claims that it is; it's one where cash talks. If it's a developer with his starchitect, that seems to be OK, but when others do what they can to try to have some influence, that's bad?

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  • So a starchitect can vandalise a perfectly good townscape to pander to his own ego, but when Prince Charles seeks to keep the character of a place for future generations we have a problem with that?
    Far better to have someone seeking the common good than someone with an over inflated ego. Spot on Charles.

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  • I agree with David- off with their heads!

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  • Sadly, with Finch now elected as Chair of CABE, 'out of character' and starchitects will be promoted as never before.

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  • I do not recall being given a vote for anyone sitting at any level within CABE or similar un-elected bodies that pass judgement on our built environment. Surely the published recommendations and opinions of these bodies are every bit as "undemocratic" as when a member of our privileged Royal family involves themselves in the process? N'est pas?

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  • I think all architects should be shot.

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  • Given the wealth of inaccuracies in the Guardian article, dare it be considered that there are certain slighted architects and developers carrying out a backstabbing vendetta against Prince Charles?

    Those people have influence and use (abuse?) it. They just don't like it up 'em, do they? They are used to money and influence talking, and shocked when others don't simply lie down to be walked over.

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  • The sad fact is that no matter how 'un-democratic' the Prince of Wales's actions are, he almost always seems to be pretty spot-on with his criticisms. The Nouvel scheme appears flawed on a number of levels and could almost certainly had benefited from some enforced re-designs. It doesn't look as bad as quai Branly, but then that isn't saying much.

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  • I am not very familiar with the planning procedures in the UK (yet), so please forgive my ignorance. It seems to me that Prince Charles interefered after an architectural competition had been decided. Does this mean that organisers of competitions in the UK are not legally bound to whatever the outcome is? If so, this seems very, very unusual in an European context and opens doors for very undemocratic interventions, indeed, as others have pointed out.

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  • No, it means he wrote to ask if an alternative architect could be considered, aapparently, or an alternative approach. I don't think that a polite letter offering help is really interference; it can be refused.

    No, no-one is legally bound, and even if something won a cdesign ompetition, it could still be turned down as unsuitable by a local authority planning committee, and even if passed, if anyone or any organisation considers it to be a wrong decision (on strong planning or legal grounds) they could seek Judicial Review or ask for a Public Inquiry.

    Also, as part of the planning process, there are statutory bodies who also have to be consulted, and any member of the public has a right to object to plans.

    It's far, far better to try to engage with a developer and or architect long before anything is submitted for planning (which also costs money).

    Prince Charles has done nothing wrong, has done nothing other people could not do, and his influence is possibly being overstated.

    I have also tried to stop developments. I have joined with others to do this. At times, we have succeeded.

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  • Thank you very much for your clarifications.

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  • The article is inaccurate and attempting to make trouble, in my opinion.

    If this happened in 2005, how odd that it has only come out now.

    I suspect this vendetta may be driven by some who have recently been slighted.

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