Prince Charles accused of ‘bullying’ National Trust
Heir to the throne wanted the organisation to change the design for its HQ after becoming its patron after the death of the Queen Mother
The Prince of Wales threatened to withdraw his patronage of the National Trust unless designs for its new headquarters were altered to suit his architectural tastes, it has emerged.
The latest example of Prince Charles's hands-on involvement in Britain's architecture and planning apparently took place in 2003, soon after he took over the role as National Trust president following the death of the Queen Mother the previous year.
The Guardian reports that a senior royal aide told the Trust and its architects that Charles would not accept plans for a modernist £14.5m building in Swindon which was to be built on the site of a former Victorian engineering foundry.
"The project reached an impasse," a source told the newspaper. "There was a meeting at the palace and the aide threatened the withdrawal of his patronage."
Although the National Trust headquarters were eventually built, the alleged intervention highlights the methods Charles uses to influence developments that he does not like.
It also follows news of his bid to remove one of the world's leading modernist architects, France's Jean Nouvel, from a £500m office and shopping project beside St Paul's Cathedral in favour of one of his preferred designers. Earlier this year, Charles was also accused of forcing a Qatari company to withdraw its £3bn plans for the site of the Chelsea Barracks.
Yesterday Sunan Prasad the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) described Charles's intervention in the St Paul's project as "brazen" and "pernicious".
He told the Guardian: "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."
Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, called for Clarence House to publish the Prince's correspondence. "The public have a right to know the full extent of Charles's meddling," said spokesman Graham Smith. "We need to know if decisions are being made according to what the public wants and needs, or according to what Prince Charles wants."
The schism between 'what the public needs' and 'what Charles wants' is perhaps best illustrated by one of his own architectural projects. For it seems the cracks are showing in Poundbury, Charles's dream of the perfect English village which he began building near Dorchester in 1993.
Residents of the neo-Georgian village are now complaining that the houses are not as well finished as they had expected and that the pedestrian-friendly layout has encouraged petty crime and vandalism. The biggest fans of the gravel footpaths, another of Charles’s ideas, are the local cats, who use it for kitty litter. ·
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