£81m lawsuit over Chelsea Barracks 'eyesore' opens

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The Independent Online

A bitter standoff concerning the aesthetic tastes of the Prince of Wales, the Qatari royal family and architect Lord Rogers opened in the High Court yesterday, amid claims that a £3bn property development in London's Chelsea Barracks had been wrecked by Prince Charles's "notorious opposition" to modern architecture.

Nick and Christian Candy, the luxury property tycoons, are claiming £81m for a breach of contract after their partners, Qatari Diar, withdrew a planning application for a Rogers-designed residential site following complaints from Charles that it would be an eyesore.

The counsel for CPC, the Candy brothers' firm, told the High Court that Qatari Diar's decision to withdraw had "no lawful justification". CPC claimed it was the interference of the Prince of Wales that persuaded the Qataris to cancel the project, leaving the Candys responsible for an £81m payment that was due when the scheme was approved by planners.

Lord Grabiner QC told Mr Justice Vos that the Prince of Wales, who is not expected to attend the trial, had written to the Qatari Prime Minister, who is also chairman of the Qatari Diar development company, saying that his "heart sank" when he saw Lord Rogers' design for the Chelsea Barracks site.

Lord Grabiner said that the claim by Qatari Diar that it was entitled to terminate the agreement without payment was "a shaggy dog story which is a desperate last throw of the dice to throw attention from its own bad faith behaviour".

CPC Group acquired the 12.8-acre site between Sloane Square and the Thames with Qatari Diar in April 2007.

Joe Smouha QC, for Qatari Diar, said the payment had been dependent on planning permission and it would not have been obtained either from Westminster City Council or the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. "The claims advanced by the claimants go nowhere because they have suffered no loss," he said.

Describing the application as "initially positive" he said the Prince of Wales's criticisms, which were widely reported in the media, "gave new impetus" to its objectors and that the "the groundswell of public opinion began to turn against the project". The hearing continues.