Qatari Diar puts Chelsea Barracks on hold

Qatar’s property investment arm, Qatari Diar, has put its £3bn Chelsea Barracks super-prime resi scheme on ice, according to a report in The Guardian.

Whilst outline planning for nearly 600 luxury residential units on the 12.8-acre site, which Qatar bought for £959m in 2007, was eventually approved by Westminster Council back in the Summer of 2011, no progress has been made on construction so far and it seems that most of the project’s consultants have been “kept in the dark” for the last 12 months at least.  The planning fiasco, which had Prince Charles fuming over Richard Rogers’ “brutalist” initial approach, ended with Westminster Council calling the revised non-Rogers masterplan a “planning exemplar.”

The Guardian quotes a Qatari source as saying: “It now seems a huge gamble to deliver all of this. They [the developers] will take their time and see how the numbers stack up in due course…. They could sell [the site] any time”, and a Qatari Diar spokeswoman as confirming: “The strategy is under review… The developer is currently refining its strategy for the development of this unique site to progress and realise its vision for this important part of London.

30097108_8af223d0f7_b“It is taking advantage of the opportunity to review and respond to the context of the prevailing economic environment in preparing for the next stage of the development.”

That the wealthiest nation on Earth (per head) could pull the plug on such a high profile scheme is a touch alarming for London. Qatar is already a major stakeholder in the capital, owning landmarks including Harrods, 80% of the Shard, the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square and the Shell Centre on the Southbank.

Despite stellar performance by London prime property market over the last couple of years (compared to the rest of the economy), The Guardian cites “concerns about the future appetite for luxury homes in London” causing Qatari Diar to shy away from “the risk of pouring a further £2bn into construction in a stagnant economy.”

The Guardian piece quotes another “source who was until recently working on the project” as saying: “It’s odd they are not doing anything because the residential markets are really rolling right now.”

Here’s a video of the Masterplan:

Image by Martin Belam