Fit for the Prince: Redrawn plans unveiled for £3bn Chelsea site

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The Independent Culture

He might not be an absolute ruler but he still has influence with friends who are. A year after the Prince of Wales wrote to the Qataris asking them to reconsider their "brutalist" design for the £3bn redevelopment of London's Chelsea Barracks, new plans were unveiled yesterday which are undoubtedly more to Charles's tastes.

Architects for the Qatari company leading Britain's most expensive housing development have unveiled a new "masterplan" for the site which will include luxury apartments, traditional London squares and some of the first public gardens to be built in the capital for more than 100 years.

The new designs, which have still to be approved by Westminster Council, are a far cry from the steel towers originally submitted by Lord Rogers. Modernist architects liked those plans, but they were fiercely opposed by residents in one of London's most affluent areas. When the Prince intervened, architects called him an unelected arbiter of architectural aesthetics.

The 12.8-acre site will be filled with a variety of houses, blocks of flats and shops, dotted with public squares and a large public park. There are also plans to build a boutique hotel, a community sports facility and a medical centre.

Randa Hanna, from the Belgravia Residents' Association, which vehemently opposed the original designs, said the new plans seemed much more in keeping with the area.

"I think this time around there will be much less opposition," she said. "It's a much more positive design that suits the surrounding area."

The site is now solely owned by Qatari Diar Real Estate, a development conglomerate owned by the Qatari royal family. They bought the barracks for £1bn in May 2006 from the Ministry of Defence along with Christian and Nick Candy, two millionaire brothers behind a string of luxury development in the capital funded by foreign money.

But the deal turned sour last summer following the Prince's intervention which led to Qatari Diar withdrawing its original plans for the barracks just weeks before it was due to go in front of Westminster's planning committee. The Candy brothers are now suing the Qataris, claiming that they illegally scrapped the contract with their company CPC. The case will come to court later this year.

Following the abandonment of Lord Rogers' plans, the Qataris brought in architects Dixon Jones, Squire and Partners as well as landscape architects Kim Wilkie Associates to submit a new proposal.

Both have a reputation for working on projects on the capital that fuse traditional architecture with modern design. Dixon Jones have recently revamped the Royal Opera House while Kim Wilkie specialises in large landscaping projects such as the redesign of Hyde Park Corner.

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