21 Aug, 2009

Prince’s architecture foundation could face investigation

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Charity Commission considers whether to launch inquiry after allegations prince has undue influence over direction of Foundation for the Built Environment

Prince Charles’s architecture charity could be investigated over allegations he has used it “as a private lobbying firm”, it emerged today.

The Charity Commission is considering whether to launch an inquiry into the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment over whether the prince has an undue influence on its direction, in breach of charity rules.

The watchdog’s move follows a Guardian investigation which revealed the foundation’s involvement in sometimes controversial planning matters and Charles’s role in setting its agenda.

The campaign group Republic, which calls for a democratically elected head of state, has lodged a formal complaint with the Charity Commission.

Republic claimed that the foundation’s independence had been brought into question, that its reputation might have been damaged and that it could be being used deliberately for private advantage, meaning it may be failing to meet two key commission standards.

The Guardian investigation revealed that Charles had personally urged the developer of a £500m building next to St Paul’s Cathedral to change his architect.

It also found that his aides at the foundation regularly scrutinised plans by major architects including Sir Terry Farrell, Sir Richard MacCormac, John McAslan and Alan Baxter, all of whom work on some of the country’s largest building projects.

“We believe Charles’s charities are behaving as private lobbying firms … their mission seems to be to ensure that Charles gets his views heard by government rather than promoting good causes in an independent manner,” Graham Smith, a spokesman for Republic, said.

“The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment is a registered charity, but it is acting like a political lobby group.

“Charles is deliberately using the foundation to circumvent the democratic planning process and enforce his personal tastes.

“It has a quite staggering level of influence, which is entirely inappropriate for a charitable organisation.”

Hank Dittmar, the foundation’s chief executive, described the complaint as “ridiculous”.

He said the organisation worked “independently with various developers, charities and associations, university and colleges, architects and communities to improve the quality of people’s lives by teaching and practising timeless and ecological ways of planning, designing and building”.

“Like any other charity, we keep in contact with local and national government, but that doesn’t breach Charity Commission rules,” he added.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said the complaint was being scrutinised by its officers before a decision was made on whether to investigate.

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