Probe into Prince Charles eco project and Boris Johnson donor who spent £1.7million on failed village scheme
Prince Charles was facing fresh questions about his charity yesterday after a watchdog said it was investigating payments from a controversial Tory donor who spent £1.7million bailing out the future king’s failed eco-village project.
The Prince of Wales personally honoured Lord Brownlow at Buckingham Palace in 2018 after accepting millions of pounds in donations for his charity in a string of secretive deals.
Prince Charles with his mother Queen Elizabeth II in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh last month
The peer, who was a policeman before making a fortune in the finance sector, stepped in when Charles struggled to sell properties at Knockroon in East Ayrshire.
Lord Brownlow, whose fortune has been estimated at £271million, also held his 50th birthday party at Dumfries House – Charles’ 18th century country estate in Scotland.
The 58-year-old is no stranger to controversy. Last year it emerged he partly funded work at No 11 Downing Street after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s then fiancée, Carrie Symonds, allegedly objected to the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ left by Theresa May.
The charity watchdog is investigating the Knockroon deals between his Havisham investment group and a subsidiary of The Prince’s Foundation, The Sunday Times reported yesterday.
Charles became close to Lord Brownlow after ignoring the advice of one of his most senior courtiers, the newspaper reported.
The Prince of Wales personally honoured Lord Brownlow at Buckingham Palace in 2018 after accepting millions of pounds in donations for his charity in a string of secretive deals
He appointed the peer as a trustee of The Prince’s Foundation, which manages Dumfries House, in 2013 after purchasing it for £45million using a £20million loan borrowed through the foundation six years earlier. As part of the sale he also acquired a nearby piece of farmland, Knockroon, where Charles planned an eco-housing development to repay the Dumfries debt.
But the development failed, with only 31 of 770 homes built and the project’s value written down from £15million to £700,000.
Prince Charles’ ‘Scottish Poundbury’ development, Knockroon eco-village in East Ayrshire, which has just 31 homes out of a planned 770 built nearly a decade after work began
Lord Brownlow’s Havisham investment group stepped in to buy properties from a subsidiary of The Prince’s Foundation. Between 2012 and 2017 he spent £1.7million purchasing 11 properties, according to official documents. The sales were not declared as ‘related party transactions’ to demonstrate that money was going to someone who had existing ties to the charity.
Shortly after Lord Brownlow completed his purchase of the properties and quit as a trustee, he was made a Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO) in 2018. The award is conferred for personal services to the Royal Family.
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator confirmed it was investigating Havisham investment group’s decision to buy the Knockroon properties.
A Prince’s Foundation spokesman said: ‘Lord Brownlow was appointed CVO in recognition of his role of chair.’ A Clarence House spokesman said: ‘Chairpersons of charities closely associated with the Royal Family are often appointed to the Royal Victorian Order to thank them for public service.’
Lord Brownlow could not be reached for comment yesterday.