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Prince Charles Seeks Key Role In Neighbourhood Planning

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The Prince of Wales is attempting to extend his influence over Britain’s towns and cities by taking a key role in the neighbourhood planning system under changes launched by the government.

The prince’s aides have been advising the government on one of David Cameron’s “big society” policies aimed at handing people, rather than officials, power over what is built in their neighbourhoods.

The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, a charity of which Charles is president, is lobbying to co-ordinate community groups that would set the planning vision for local areas, including what housing and public facilities should be built and how they should look.

The innovation is expected to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the localism and decentralisation bill and is meant to turn the planning system on its head with the public “collaborating” rather than simply being consulted on official policies.

Planning experts believe the foundation’s involvement in steering meetings would mean more neighbourhoods shaped according to the prince’s favoured traditional and conservative architectural values, and have warned it could embed his influence in the democratic planning system.

Will Alsop, one of Britain’s leading architects, said the bid was dangerous and threatened to stifle architectural innovation, while campaigners opposed to Charles’ influence over democratic processes branded it “grossly inappropriate.”

The foundation’s decision to press for the role comes amid a resurgence in Charles’ influence over planning under the Conservatives. Last month his foundation proposed taking over the design review of major planning applications from the government design watchdog, which has had its funding slashed.

The charity has also been drafted in by the Qatari developers of a £3bn housing plan at Chelsea barracks after the developers scrapped the original Richard Rogers design amid fears that Charles’ objection might influence the London mayor, Boris Johnson, who has the power to veto major developments in the capital.

The Conservatives are understood to be keen to involve the Prince’s Foundation in the planning changes. John Howell, the Conservative MP who originally proposed the new approach to planning in a green paper, said the foundation’s method of running community design sessions was “one which had a good track record and people will be interested in learning of its success.”

The prince’s charity has used its Enquiry by Design workshops to develop housing plans from East Ayrshire to Northamptonshire which have resulted in proposals that reject modern architecture and favour traditional approaches.

Under proposals expected to be included in the bill, local authorities will be required to adopt the outcomes of community workshops as a planning framework unless there is a significant problem with their legality or practicality.

The plans would be drawn up at ward, parish or town council level and district and borough councils would be expected to stitch them together.

Planning sources claimed the foundation was “gearing up its machine” to seize the opportunity to advance its philosophy.

“We were asked by (the Department for) Communities and Local Government for input into ways that community engagement could promote more sustainable development, and we have provided information about our Enquiry by Design process, and ways that similar processes could aid local planning,” said Hank Dittmar, chief executive of the foundation.

“If the localism and decentralisation bill does enhance local planning through stakeholder engagement, the Prince’s Foundation would be pleased to help local authorities to respond, by community planning training sessions and by conducting Enquiries by Design.”

Dittmar recently denied promoting any particular style, saying: “Unlike the critical elite, with its allegiance to often vain statement buildings by famous architects, our bias is toward design in service of walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods, linked by streets and squares and landscape.”

That has not prevented criticism of the bid for increased influence. “It is grossly inappropriate for the heir to the throne to be involved in an organisation that wants to take such a central role in government business, especially in the controversial area of planning,” said Graham Smith, director of Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state.

“We know that Charles has deep prejudices on architecture and planning and it would be very worrying to have that influence spread across the country.”

Will Alsop, winner of the Stirling Prize for architecture for Peckham library, said the prince’s involvement in the often politicised planning system would breach accepted norms about the royal family keeping out of politics.

“This is dangerous,” he said. “We already know that the vast majority of people would favour the Prince of Wales’ attitudes, but architecture, like all forms of art and science, thrives on the new and asking interesting questions as well as protecting the old. With the Prince’s Foundation involved, the new would go out of the window.”

Well, you lot elected the blue bloods. What did you expect?

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Oh FFS! I hate that meddling prince! :angry:

He'll have us all living in poncy 'art' houses with solar panels on every spare brick. Stay the hell out of politics you unelected meddler!

He should be beheaded purely for his influence over the Paternoster Square redevelopment. Truly dire and mediocre.

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