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Developers consult Prince Charles on architects, Lord Rogers claims

Renowned British architect Richard Rogers has used a memoir published this month to revive a bitter argument with Prince Charles, pictured left, over what the architect claimed is the royal’s ongoing and undue influence on the design of buildings in Britain today.

Five developers told Lord Rogers of Riverside, pictured right, that they have given lists of prospective architectural practices to the prince’s team at his official residence, Clarence House, "to check who would be acceptable" on schemes, Rogers has claimed.

And one developer said that consulting the prince over plans was "one way we can minimise risk", wrote the architect, for whom the prince’s views on architecture are a matter of personal grievance.

Checking up on the claims, newspaper The Times spoke to an "insider" who said the prince’s "meddling" came in cycles.

The paper also quotes a developer who accused the prince of influencing design indirectly, through proxies, in a way described as "subterfuge".

Rogers’ and Charles’ most recent conflict emerged in 2009, when Rogers’ firm’s designs for London’s Chelsea Barracks were dropped after Prince Charles wrote a letter to a Qatari royal expressing his strong disapproval of the plans.

Before that in 1987 Rogers’ scheme for the new Paternoster Square beside St Paul’s Cathedral in London was dropped after Charles spoke out against the design. At that time Rogers’ reputation for innovative design was peaking after the completion of the unusual Lloyd’s building in London – sometimes called the "inside-out building" – the year before.

The prince has been seen as the scourge of modern architecture ever since he called a proposed extension of the UK’s National Gallery "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend" in 1984.

In his memoir published this month, A Place for All People, Rogers claims that he asked eight "major developers" about the role of the prince.

"Only one of them said he actually showed the prince their designs but five others said they consulted St James’s Palace [Clarence House] about a shortlist of architects," he wrote.

Rogers’ reputation for innovative design was peaking after the completion of the unusual Lloyd’s building in London in 1986 (Wikimedia Commons)

To check his claim The Times contacted seven developers. It reported that only one, Qatari Diar, responded, saying it did "not consult the Prince of Wales on project developmental matters".

Clarence House told The Times: "Developers do not seek design approval from the Prince of Wales as he does not, and cannot, grant planning permission."

One "insider" contacted by The Times, however, said that the prince’s "meddling" appeared to come in cycles.

"The degree to which architects and developers have to genuflect or listen to him has gone down [recently] but who knows when he will start some campaign again?" he told the newspaper.

And one developer, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that the prince used indirect methods, which he described as "subterfuge".

"It can be more like subterfuge," he said. "You will find that architectural advisers connected with his various trusts will turn up at planning meetings with sustainability concerns, or they will speak to Historic England. They will appear on panels of architecture competitions. They come out of leftfield."

The developer further asserted to The Times that the prince had a "cadre" of "tame" architects who shared his taste for a "pastiche type of architecture".

But a spokesman for Clarence House told The Times: "The prince regularly receives letters from members of the public complaining about a variety of developments and planning decisions. This is why his interest in the built environment goes beyond individual developments and architectural styles to encouraging a sense of community and improving the quality of people’s lives overall."

Top image: Prince Charles, left, and architect Richard Rogers (Wikimedia Commons)

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