Outcry over DfL merger
Capital’s architects rue loss of ‘valuable resource
The loss of Design for London will leave the capital a “poorer city”, leading architects and design experts have warned.
It emerged this week that DfL is being incorporated into a new Regeneration Unit at the Greater London Authority, following a public consultation.
Former RIBA president Sunand Prasad said DfL had succeeded in lifting the discourse on design within the capital to a “materially different” level.
“Design for London did a lot of research and produced a lot of evidence,” said Prasad. “It’s a valuable resource that is envied by cities around the world and it is a vital part of the making of London.”
BD understands that Mark Brearley, the head of DfL since 2008, is expected to leave his role before March.
The remainder of the team is set to become part of the new Regeneration Unit, incorporating the London Development Agency’s capital projects and post-riots regeneration work.
It will also look after projects including the Outer London Fund and the mayor’s wider regeneration programme.
GLA documents show that seven design-related posts, including a senior manager and three other managerial roles, are proposed for “deletion”,
leaving the GLA with no senior design advisers on staff.
Terry Farrell, an adviser to mayor Boris Johnson, said: “Design for London was one of the best public offices for planning and design in Britain, and continued a great tradition. I found their work on green grids, public realm and landscape first class and I strongly supported them on their work on high streets, which was exceptional.
“Where is that going to go now, and who is going to do that work? They are the big questions for me.”
Peter Bishop, a former director at Design for London, said the capital was “considerably better as a city than it was 12 years ago”, partly thanks to the influence of the organisation’s programmes on public spaces and high streets.
“The real test is whether they continue to pursue the quality agenda and see London as a long-term project,” he said.
“You don’t just scrap design quality and thoughtful interventions in the public realm.”
The GLA and Mark Brearley both declined to comment.