Chelsea Barracks redevelopment: Concern over delay

Chelsea Barracks
Image caption The Chelsea Barracks site remains deserted after Qatari Diar put construction on hold

A council has said it is "surprised and very concerned" that a £3bn development of Chelsea Barracks has been put on hold by its Qatari owners.

Qatari Diar, the construction arm of the country, has put it under review.

Planning permission is already in place for 448 houses and flats, a sports centre and retail outlets.

Westminster City Council said it wanted to see the scheme move forward but Chelsea Barracks Action Group said it was relieved by the delay.

The barracks housed the Queen's Guard and was built in 1860. It was sold by the Ministry of Defence to Qatari Diar in 2007 for £959m.

The site has remained undeveloped since the last troops vacated the premises in 2008.

Councillor Jonathan Glanz, cabinet member for housing and property at the council, said: "Looking across the site now, there's a huge opportunity to create housing which is much needed in Westminster.

Image caption The scheme was approved after people, including Prince Charles, criticised the previous design

"We would like to see this moving forward, we would like to see these homes coming out of the ground and we would like to see the benefits that were negotiated by Westminster."

If the scheme goes ahead, Qatari Diar would have to contribute £78m to the council's housing fund.

In a statement, the company said it would "review and respond" to the "economic environment" as it prepared for the next stage of the development.

The statement added: "The revised timetable for appointing architects, developing the detailed designs for and submitting the planning application for phase one is not yet finalised. We look forward to providing further details in due course."

Mr Glanz said the pause was disappointing because 123 affordable homes would have been built on the site. Although the council has other funds to help pay for affordable homes in the area, it would have been "a very useful contribution".

He added that, if the company did pull out altogether, he would be surprised if nobody else took over the site because of the success of the nearby Battersea Power Station redevelopment which recently saw £600m worth of homes sold in a day.

He said: "There is a huge opportunity here to provide homes for people who really need them."

'Like the calm'

Chelsea Barracks Action Group has always opposed the plans, saying the buildings will "loom over this very classical part of London".

Chair Georgine Thorburn said: "We quite like it without anything on the site.

"For all the local residents, we're going to have to put up with five years of building six days a week, it's going to be very stressful.

"While the site is empty and everything is quiet, quite a lot of people living by the barracks have fabulous views and we like the calm so long may it last."

The development of the site has also attracted criticism from Prince Charles who described a previous 17-storey design as "insane" and an "experiment with the soul of the city".

Architect Lord Rogers criticised the prince, saying he was "wrong" to express his views.

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