Charles Windsor is evidently not acquainted with the law of holes. Having got himself into a constitutionally deep and grubby spot through resorting to the Princes' Union instead of the democratically constituted planning process in his campaign against the Chelsea barracks redevelopment scheme, the heir to the throne continues to dig. He is now claiming that he acted to protect “ordinary people” against the greed of developers.
The idea that the Prince was acting out of noblesse oblige on the part of little people who are ignored by the system, is hard to swallow. The Duchy of Cornwall, from which he earned £17 million last year, is a professionally managed property empire worth over £600 million.
The Duchy is planning to build 2000 new homes on fields surrounding Newton St Loe, a village it owns in Somerset. The Chair of the parish council reports that all letters sent to the Prince are apparently ignored and that villagers are instead “fobbed off” with letters from the Duchy. She describes them as feeling “bemused” and let down” and unable to understand “why he has not been listening”.
Royalty should never involve itself in political matters – which includes the planning system – because they are not accountable. As a local councillor, I know that the system has shortcomings and that holding the balance between the interests of developers and the those of local communities can be difficult and frustrating. But there is a tried and tested system of democratic selection, appointment of planning officers by those elected and a process of open meetings where members of the public can make representation and offer objections. If we mishandle that system the electorate can remove us. If the voters believe that planning law itself is in need of reform, they can make representations to government to that end.
It seems that the future King Charles III presents himself as a representative of the people only when doing so suits the advancement of his own views. His behaviour over the Chelsea development shows him to be either ignorant of democratic procedure or contemptuous of it. His latest claims add hypocrisy to those failings.