First Poundbury, now Port-au-Prince: the Prince with a craving for paving

Charles's ambitious housebuilding plans are not to everybody's tastes, Michael McCarthy discovers

It was a little-noticed planning decision, taken last week in the far west of Britain. But it marks a significant step in the onward march of what is becoming a development juggernaut – the property empire of the Prince of Wales. You may think the Prince's Duchy of Cornwall – his landed-estate-cum-business – bakes and sells biscuits and jam, and you're right. Duchy Originals are a top-seller at Waitrose.

But in partnership with another of the Prince's enterprises, his Foundation for the Built Environment, the Duchy also builds houses – thousands of them – and in the not-too-distant future the Prince's vision will influence building schemes abroad as well.

Last week's decision by Cornwall County Council allowed a new housing estate at Tregunnel Hill on the edge of Newquay, the seaside town known as Britain's surfing capital.

As the 174-home site will be built on the same principles as the Prince's development at Poundbury on the outskirts of Dorchester – traditional rural architecture styles combined with traditional materials – it has been dubbed "Surfbury" by locals.

It has also been dubbed "Kensington-on-Sea" as some in Newquay think it has too few affordable homes; others object to the green fields the properties will cover.

The Cornwall branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England was among the objectors. Its secretary, Ted Venn, said the development "proves once again that Prince Charles has failed to follow his commitment to conserve the environment, despite his claim to be passionate about the environment".

Mr Venn added: "He has again failed to live up to his beliefs and... totally ignored the views of local people."

But not everyone in Cornwall, where new homes are needed, objects to Tregunnel and councillors backed it after a rejection in summer.

So the Prince's expanding property empire rolls on. The Duchy is one of the few housebuilders seemingly unaffected by the downturn and in 2009 the Prince was responsible for more new homes than Persimmon, one of the country's largest housebuilders.

Next up are two Cornish schemes. One is the Newquay Growth Area, 850 homes to go up on Duchy land to the east of the town in a specially built community that is expected to "grow organically" over the next 40 to 50 years.

The other, in nearby Truro, will have 98 houses, a Cornish food hall and a Waitrose supermarket.

This was deferred by councillors at the same meeting last week after vociferous local objections.

"We were worried it would be the start of development on the site and there was nothing to stop the area becoming covered in housing," said Truro's Mayor, Councillor Rob Nolan.

"The Duchy might have succeeded in getting what they want in Tregunnel but we're determined to save Truro," said Ian Hibberd, who set up a campaign to stop the scheme and handed in a 627-signature petition against it.

"We don't want a new Poundbury here," he said. "It's always the same story with Prince Charles. He runs around telling anyone who'll listen how much he cares about the environment, but at the end of the day he's a property speculator. Everywhere the Duchy has land, they'll come up with a scheme to build on it."

But a Duchy spokeswoman yesterday insisted it was merely responding to local authority requests. "We've been asked to do these schemes because they are important in terms of helping local need for housing and services," she said.

The Prince's building vision goes far beyond his estate's West Country heartland. His Foundation for the Built Environment is heavily involved with Coed Darcy, a new development of 4,000 homes, again on traditional lines, on a former oil refinery site between Swansea and Neath.

Further north, the foundation has a major role in designing and developing Knockroon – a new housing estate initially of 770 homes in an old mining village between Cumnock and Auchinleck in Ayrshire.

It too will also be built on the Poundbury principles of traditional architecture and materials.

The Prince is even looking abroad now, with the foundation helping with the rebuilding of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, destroyed in last year's earthquake, and exploring the prospect of designing an eco-town in India.

New planning rules 'favour developers'

Proposals to make it easier to build new homes and businesses are weighted in favour of developers and need to be rewritten, an influential committee of MPs warns today.

The Communities and Local Government Committee backed complaints by the National Trust and the Council for the Protection of Rural England that the new planning rules could lead to unsustainable new building across the country. They called for a default answer of 'Yes' to development to be removed from the National Planning Policy Framework before it is brought into force. They also call for the removal from the final draft of the presumption that planning applications should be approved unless the adverse effects "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the benefits.

The opposition to the plans – not only from campaigners but Conservative MPs, too – will increase pressure on David Cameron and the Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles to revise the framework before it is published in final form.

Oliver Wright

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions