Qatari Diar breached a contract with Christian Candy when it controversially withdrew Richard Rogers’ Chelsea Barracks scheme, the High Court has ruled
Justice Vos found Candy’s Qatari partners in the project breached the terms of their agreement by withdrawing planning permission after the Prince of Wales’ intervention.
But the judge said Candy’s company, CPC Group, was not entitled to the early payment of £68.5 million under the terms of the contract.
He said he would consider the issue at a later hearing if CPC seeks damages for the breach of the contract.
Richard Rogers said in response to the verdict: ‘The way in which the Prince of Wales intervened in helping to get the original Chelsea Barracks planning application withdrawn was wrong.
‘The way in which the Prince of Wales intervened in helping to get the original Chelsea Barracks planning application withdrawn was wrong’
I hope that this judgment demonstrates that similar interventions should be considered far more seriously before they are made in the future.’
Vos said both CPC and Qatari Diar Real Estate, the partners in the development, ‘were faced with a very difficult position once the Prince of Wales intervened in the planning process’.
‘His intervention was, no doubt, unexpected and unwelcome.’
The judge was told at a hearing last month that the Qatari company had withdrawn the planning application for the modernist development after Charles wrote to the chairman of Qatari Diar, who is also the prime minister of Qatar, saying that his ‘heart sank’ when he saw the design by Richard Rogers.
Lord Grabiner QC, representing CPC Group, said: ‘He urged Sheik Hamad bin Jasim to reconsider the plan before it was too late and attached a scheme by a different, classical architect he preferred.
‘Prince Charles and Lord Rogers had form in the way that they had previously crossed swords and Prince Charles’s opposition to modern architecture is notorious.’
Sheik Hamad is the cousin of the Emir of Qatar, who had been invited by Charles to a meeting in London when the Emir was said to have been ‘surprised’ by Lord Rogers’ designs for the barracks site and would have them changed, said Lord Grabiner.
The 5.2 hectares barracks site is in one of London’s most expensive residential areas and was sold by the Ministry of Defence for £959 million to Qatari Diar and CPC Group.
Candy claimed the Qatari company breached the terms of their contract and must make a payment that was due if planners approved Richard Rogers’ scheme.
RIBA President Ruth Reed’s verdict on the case
The evidence presented to the High Court during this trial details the inappropriate behind-the-scenes methods used by The Prince of Wales to object to the original design for the Chelsea Barracks scheme, which effectively derailed a project which had been proceeding through the planning system.
The UK has a democratic and properly constituted planning process: any citizen in this country is able to register their objections to proposed buildings with the appropriate local authority. The Prince of Wales, like any individual, is entitled to raise concerns about architecture, but we regret that on this occasion he failed to engage with the planning process entirely openly and appropriately.
The message that this affair sends to overseas investors considering working on UK projects is very concerning; it is vital that we promote the UK as a world-class country where the best quality architecture can be invested in, and built.
We value The Prince of Wales’ interest and experience in the built environment and the excellent work of The Prince’s Foundation, but one person in a position of considerable influence in public life should not be able to exert undue influence on democratic decision making.