Royals seek permit for garden

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LONDON

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex could be ordered to rip up their Frogmore Cottage redesign after a planning error – which has been shrouded in secrecy over ‘national security’ fears.  Prince Harry and Meghan have been forced to apply for retrospective planning permission for landscaping at the £2.5million cottage which is different to the design already approved by the council.

Retrospective planning applications can be submitted for work already carried out but it does not mean permission will automatically be granted. The royal couple are planning to have an organic vegetable plot created in the gardens of their new home on the Queen’s Windsor estate, where they now live with their two-month old son Archie. The work is also said to include a kitchen garden and £20,000 of shrubs, hedges or trees.

The exact details of the changes are not clear, however, because large swathes of the application have been redacted – which will add further to the growing secrecy row faced by the couple.

In a letter submitted to the council yesterday about the couple’s plans for the garden, a member of the Royal Household staff warns that ‘national security’ could be threatened if the proposals are made public.

Ian Ratcliffe, project manager at the Royal Household, said in a letter to the council that details of the couple’s plans should be kept secret. He said ‘national security could be compromised if public access is given to the plans’ either on the council’s website or in its offices. Copies should not be sent to statutory consultees, as is typical, he argued, adding for reasons of national security, we would appreciate if this application could be treated as confidential, and not be allowed to enter the public domain.

The Grade II-listed cottage was gifted to the Duke and Duchess by the Queen last year, with Kensington Palace confirming the move in November, saying Windsor was a ‘very special place’ for the couple.  Frogmore Cottage is located near Windsor Castle, the Queen’s summer residence, and St George’s Chapel, where Harry and Meghan married in May 2018 as millions of people around the world watched on TV.

The revised plans, according to a source, do not amount to a huge change but it is enough for them to have to go back to the drawing board and apply for planning permission again.

 

Much of the outdoor work, such as landscaping, is still to be done and will also reportedly be paid for by the couple, while the cost of some work such as exterior repainting is believed to fall under a five-year royal repair programme.

The source said the language used in the letter to the council was standard for planning applications for all royal residences. But the secrecy will add to the criticism the couple faced for choosing to keep Archie’s christening private and not revealing details of his godparents.  A royal insider said the building services department had to make a minor amendment to the landscaping of the property which was out of everyone’s control but as it was a change to the agreed plans, it was unfortunately necessary to re-submit them.

As the proposals include layouts of the house and garden, building services ask as a matter of necessity that they are not made public for reasons of security. Some changes have been made to the plans to create the duke and duchess’s garden after the original planning consent was granted.

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