The Queen has set the seal on the Prince of Wales’s Poundbury development by unveiling a statue of her mother at the heart of the building project.
Charles’ classically inspired extension to the Dorset town of Dorchester has been criticised for harking back to an earlier architectural tradition, but it was praised today as a “beacon to the way forward” by one of the professionals closely involved with it.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were joined by Charles and Camilla when they toured the newly completed Queen Mother Square at Poundbury.
The Queen and her family toured the local Waitrose store walking past aisles of food and they chatted to the staff assembled in the upmarket supermarket.
Work began on the project in 1993 and the idea was to create an urban quarter of Dorchester which gave priority to people, rather than cars, and where commercial buildings were mixed with residential areas, shops and leisure facilities to create a walkable community.
Today, Poundbury is home to 3,000 people in a mix of private and affordable housing. The community also provides employment to 2,100 people and is home to 185 businesses.
Andrew Hamilton, development director for the Duchy of Cornwall, which owns the land Poundbury is built on, gave a speech before the Queen unveiled a statue of the Queen Mother and told Charles: “You, sir, single-handedly set out to challenge the accepted orthodoxy of planning and development in this country.
“At a time when there is a nationwide clamour for new housing I believe that Poundbury stands as a beacon to the way forward.”
Charles spoke before the statue was unveiled with a very hoarse voice and a Clarence House spokesman later said he was recovering from a cold.
The heir to the throne told the Queen, Duke, Duchess and the hundreds of well-wishers gathered in the new Queen Mother Square: “For me one of the most essential features of Poundbury has been its mixed use, mixed income composition - a dangerously revolutionary move 25 years ago.”
He also acknowledged how his architectural views have been out of favour describing how he has been “battling against the tide”.
Charles said: “It is a great honour Your Majesty is able to be with us today, 18 years after you first came here, for such an important occasion in the history of Poundbury on the edge of the historic town of Dorchester.
“Twenty-five years ago all this was a mere dream, to most people except for the late Sir David Landale, the then Duchy of Cornwall secretary, a completely mad dream.
“Battling against the tide is an uncomfortable experience I can assure you, for that reason I’m indebted to the brilliant master planner and conventional mould breaker Leon Krier and Andrew Hamilton, the long suffering and highly professional (Duchy of Cornwall) development director, for helping to make the scheme a reality.
“Over 25 different architectural practices have been involved, including importantly several of the architects at my own institute of architects. But in this square I’m enormously grateful to Quinlan and Francis Terry and Ben Pentreath for their genius in designing the buildings to create such a sense of place.”
He went on to thank the builder firms involved without whose work “none of this would ever have been achieved to such a high standard of quality” and their teams of local craftsmen, “Dorset men through and through”.