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Prince's Foundation eyes Cabe design review role

1 November 2010

The Prince of Wales’ architectural charity is drawing up plans to carry out design reviews after the closure of government quango Cabe, reports Building Design, the weekly paper for architects.  

Prince’s Foundation chief executive Hank Dittmar said a decision on whether to go ahead with the move could be announced by Christmas, adding: “We’d have to talk to our network and assess the market ...It would need to pay for itself but we wouldn’t be doing it to make money.”

The charity said it would aim to recruit a balanced review panel, responsible for examining major schemes and advising on how to improve them, which would include a traditional architecture and urbanism perspective.

Dittmar told BD: “To be credible, it would have to have democratic, independent judgement. We would have to have a panel that was balanced and not exclusively traditional architects.”

The charity’s move into design review was branded “an absolute disaster” by former Stirling Prize winner Will Alsop. “The Prince’s Foundation has a definite architectural agenda ...The Prince is not impartial at all, he would get involved and his meddling would increase,” he added.

But classical-revival architect Robert Adam, who sat on the Cabe design review panel for six years, said he backed the representation of other architectural styles in the review process, saying the current process was undemocratic.

Meanwhile, Building reports that the government is in urgent discussions with several other professional bodies, including the RIBA, about taking on some of Cabe’s work.

The Department of Communities and Local Government, which part-funded the design quango, is leading the hunt for a new alternative, and ministers and officials are particularly keen to see the design review process continue.

A source close to the department told Building: “It is interested in seeing a response from industry as to how some key elements of what Cabe does can be taken on. Is there a way in which professional and industry bodies can take this on? Promoting and facilitating high-quality design reviews would clearly be part of this.”

The communities department will make a final decision on funding after discussions with the industry, but it is not currently considering government involvement in the role.

Anna Scott-Marshall, the RIBA’s head of public affairs, said the RIBA was working with Cabe, the communities department, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Landscape Institute on a solution. She said: “We are exploring if things can be taken on elsewhere. There are some important things Cabe is doing.”

Cabe’s demise is already being set in motion and the majority of its 125 staff have been given redundancy notices ahead of closure next March.

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