Thursday03 September 2015

It’s business as usual at DC Cabe

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Your front page story (News December 7) and editorial about the future of Design Council Cabe seemed to be based on some quite serious misunderstandings.

First, the idea that Cabe is being “subsumed” by the Design Council is peculiar. Design Council Cabe is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Design Council (itself a charity), and has been since day one of our merger in April 2011. It is, if you like, the architecture and built environment wing of DC, which had previously had some, but not much, engagement with built environment matters. That is one of the reasons why our merger made sense.

Second, it is wrong to suggest there is no clear mission on our part or that of the wider DC. Our purpose in life is to promote good design, and encourage its use, throughout national institutions and culture. That is our stated charitable purpose.

Third, DC Cabe does this (of course in reduced circumstances) via design review, advice and help to government and planning authorities, and through work with neighbourhoods as part of the drive to embed well-conceived principles into local plans.

Fourth, we now charge for many of our design reviews because, as you rightly reported, our guaranteed government funding ends in March 2013. As part of a charity we are moving towards financial self-reliance, surely something you might support, even given BD’s generally critical attitude to both old and new Cabe.

Finally, it is matter for regret that we have parted company with Nahid Majid, especially since we had extended her probation period because of our change in chief executives. Sometimes things don’t work out and the best option is to start afresh.

We are entering 2013 in good spirit (and with a more robust structure than a year ago), with a growing list of local authorities and others committing to our services, and with a staff team that has the necessary attributes to deliver a convincing programme. That programme is increasingly related to wider Design Council work, where spatial design, product design and process design work seamlessly together.

We do not expect an uncritical press, but given your own commitments to promoting design quality, we surely have more in common than last week’s very negative coverage suggests.

Paul Finch, chair, Design Council Cabe and deputy chair, Design Council

Cabe was a review body and to have any value it had to have the authority to be heard and to have its views respected.

It was important because there was no other body able to make judgements at a national level and without such an overview everything will be determined by local, parochial and probably financial criteria. That is no way to achieve high standards in the built environment.

It is no surprise that there is no national strategy for urban development but it is a disaster which will make itself known quite soon. That there is no-one — no government body, no group, no quango, not even a group within the professions — of a stature adequate to challenge, let alone create, policy is a failure of responsibility.

OK, Cabe had no magic wand but make it better, don’t kill it off.

Raymond Attfield
via bdonline


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