Camilla TomineySat, 13 February 2021, 3:07 pm
The Duchess of Cornwall has privately expressed concerns over plans by the Duke of Westminster’s property group to redevelop the block of “aristo-flats” where she once lived.
A row dubbed “the Battle of Belgravia” has erupted over the £400 million scheme for Cundy Street Quarter, which has been recommended for approval by Westminster City Council (WCC).
Apartments on the estate near Victoria station were known as “aristo-flats” because of their well-heeled occupants, including the young Camilla Shand and former Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd.
In 1972, 25-year-old Camilla invited Prince Charles back for coffee to her two-bedroom flat at Cundy Street’s Stack House in the early hours after an evening at Annabel’s nightclub in Mayfair.
The Duke’s family firm, Grosvenor, has already been criticised for putting “profits before people” in its application to demolish four blocks and replace the existing buildings with new housing.
Belgravia neighbours say the development, which is up to 48m high in places, as tall as the spire of the local St Barnabas church, will blight their Regency properties.
They also object to the fact that a large bulk of the new accommodation, comprising over 200,000 square feet, has been earmarked for “specialist senior living accommodation” for 170 people. There is also provision for 93 affordable homes including 44 for social rent and 70 open market homes.
But the dissenters claim that only 12 additional dwellings will be added to what is already on the site.
Leading the objections is Dame Susan Tinson, a former editor of ITV’s News at Ten who produced the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts in the 1990s and 2000s.
Her four-storey Georgian home is among dozens set to be overshadowed by the new development, with WCC admitting that some neighbours will lose up to 70 per cent of their natural light.
Dame Susan, 78, told the Sunday Telegraph: “I just thought at the beginning they can’t possibly mean this. They can’t possibly be going around completely ruining the lives of a row of people yet they don’t seem to care.
“There’s a difference between buying a house that is dark and buying a house that is light and then having darkness imposed upon you.
“Grosvenor is supposed to be the guardian of Belgravia. It’s all very upsetting.”
The Belgravia Society has written to WCC ahead of the application being heard on Tuesday (Feb 16) complaining that the development “does not really give proper consideration to the character of the area,” adding that the “bulk and massing of the development is overbearing and out of character in terms of its appearance and with the rest of Belgravia.”
Its trustee Mary Regnier-Leigh, 77, a solicitor, questioned the “giant spread of old peoples’ accommodation for, one assumes, rich old people who would like to live in Belgravia.”
She added: “For Grovenor to do this is unbelievable when they are supposed to be the custodians of the most important regency architecture anywhere in the country. It’s all about the bottom line and how much they can grab.
“We support the affordable housing and the open market homes but there are other Grosvenor owned sites nearby that would be much better suited to the senior living accommodation.”
A spokesman for Grosvenor said: “Our proposals can transform a closed-off private site with outdated affordable housing into a handsome, low carbon neighbourhood.
“We’ve looked very carefully at height and how to strike the right balance – providing as many affordable and other homes as possible alongside new facilities while respecting the area’s character; something that’s very important to us.
“As the site today is unusually open and set back, a major consideration should be retained levels of light, not just losses, which are comparable to neighbouring streets and properties.”
Clarence House declined to comment.