Brave new world

If the brave new world of British politics is anything to go by traditionalists and modernists can coexist in harmony.

Yet last week the High Court saw the beginning of a multi-million pound dispute rooted in a clash between modern property developers the Candy Brothers and the future King of England, Prince Charles, who infamously prefers traditional architecture.

Property developers Nick and Christian Candy are often hailed as the rags to riches success story of their profession. In 1995 the pair bought their first property, a one bedroom flat in London’s Earls Court, using a £6,000 loan from their grandmother. It was the first of many successful real estate deals and in 2004 the pair established luxury property development company CPC Group.

The company set up Project Blue, a joint venture with the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, the Gulf state’s property investment company. In February 2008 Project Blue bought Chelsea Barracks from the Ministry of Defence at a cost of £959m.

CPC, meanwhile, owned a £7.4m share of the property, which in November 2008 it agreed to sell to the Qataris for £37.9m.

Under the terms of that deal Qatari Diar, it is alleged, agreed to handover a further £81m to the Candy Brothers when significant challenges for the development were met – most notably gaining planning consent for a Lord Rogers design redevelopment.

Now the brothers have brought in barrister heavyweight Lord Grabiner QC to pursue Qatari Diar for breach of contract alleging that it failed to “act in good faith and use all reasonable (but commercially prudent) endeavours to achieve the milestones they had agreed”.

It is claimed that Qatari Diar reneged on its end of the deal after being leant on by the Prince of Wales, who was not in favour of the redesign.  It withdrew the planning application in June.

Grabiner, of One Essex Court chambers, told the presiding judge Mr Justice Vos that the Prince’s “notorious opposition” to modern architecture had given Qatari Diar reason to pull back from the deal and therefore it was in breach of contract.

Grabiner, who was instructed by Wragge & Co partner Nicola Mumford, will set out his case based on a letter written by the Prince of Wales in March last year to Qatari Diar chairman Sheikh Hammad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani.

It is alleged that following Prince Charles’s complaints, Qatari Diar indicated to him that even if a planning application was approved the proposed scheme would not be built.

Joe Smouha QC, who was instructed by Herbert Smith partner Philip Carrington to represent Qatari Diar, has already filed papers with the court rejecting those assertions. He will argue that the claimants had attempted to force them to withdraw from the relationship to give them grounds on which to bring the claim.

The case has all the markings of a great story: British royalty rooted in traditionalism and a Middle Eastern sheikh with a penchant for London buildings doing battle with two 30-something property magnates and modernist architect Lord Rogers.

The old versus the new. Perhaps they could learn a lesson from new politics and come up with their own brave new world of architecture.

The lawyers:

Claimant: Wragge & Co partner Nicola Mumford instructed Lord Tony Grabiner QC of One Essex Court to lead Alexander Polley also of One Essex Court.

Defendant lawyers: Herbert Smith partner Philip Carrington instructed Joe Smouha QC of Essex Court Chambers to lead Andrew Twigger of 3 Stone Buildings.