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Saturday26 July 2014

N Ireland’s Cabe vows to fight PFI

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Northern Ireland’s newly established answer to Cabe has vowed to challenge the PFI system and significantly raise architectural quality in the province.



“Northern Ireland is seeing its biggest public sector buildings spend for some time”

Barrie Todd


In his first comments since taking over as chairman of the Architecture & the Built Environment ministerial advisory group (MAG) last week, leading architect Barrie Todd said peace in the province provided an opportunity to improve design but dismissed PFI as a system that put “money before design quality”.

The group will advise the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure (DCAL) on design quality, and is expected to set up a design review panel for major projects amid a boom in private sector development. Public sector spending of £16 billion on building projects is also projected over the next 10 years.

“Northern Ireland has always suffered from very poor quality design because of the Troubles but that mood is beginning to change,” Todd said. “It is currently seeing its biggest public sector buildings spend for quite some time, and the regional capital, Belfast, has the biggest regeneration programme since Victorian times.”

He added that the MAG hoped to encourage the government to adopt a two-stage procurement process developed by Northern Ireland Health Estates chief executive John Cole, and influenced by RIBA’s Smart PFI scheme.

Todd also promised to raise questions over the controversial Ulster Museum extension plan (News August 24).

The establishment of the MAG was welcomed by other architects in Northern Ireland. Colin Conn, managing director of Colin Conn Architects, said it would “raise the integrity of design quality and stop the piecemeal approach to development in Northern Ireland”.

Richard Lutton, the architect within the DCAL who helped to co-ordinate the policy, said: “Up until now the built environment in Northern Ireland has been entirely haphazard.

“The group will act as an authoritative source of advice on the built environment and help bring about the required step-change in design quality in both the public and private sectors.”

The MAG, which will sit four times a year, was announced last year with the publication of the government’s first policy on architecture and the built environment.

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