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Advisors pour cold water on CABE design review proposals

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The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's plan to extend its influence over the quality of design nationwide by introducing design review committees outside London could slow up and confuse the planning process, design advisors to regional authorities have warned.

CABE officials were due to meet today (Thursday) to discuss plans to pilot regional design review panels, one in Kent and the other in the north of England.

But the chairman of the Liverpool Urban Design and Conservation Advisory Panel, Alistair Sunderland, is afraid the plan could hamper the work of panels already established to provide design review advice to planning authorities.'We have got to avoid confusion in the system, ' Sunderland said. 'It's great the design profession has a voice but there is a danger that there will be too many goody-goodies.'He also warned that it could lead to overlapping and inconsistent advice to council planners.

Barry Shaw, chief executive of North Kent architecture centre and a member of CABE's regional committee, echoed the view: 'There is a danger that one confuses the picture, but I believe we can produce a system which is quite simple, quite straightforward and which is focused on design.'

CABE is piloting the regional design panels as part of a new strategy giving each of the eight regional development agencies, excluding London, the power to appoint a representative to the commission's regional committee. This committee will act as 'regional ambassadors', according to the CABE official responsible for the regions, Bridget Sawyers.

They will provide a systematic alert mechanism for CABE to scrutinise major new projects through its national design review committee and will also identify projects where CABE can help 'enable' a developer or client achieve a better design.

Sawyers said a regional design review function is already carried out by panels linked to local authorities and she pledged to make links with these. However, she said that CABE cannot vouch for the quality or consistency of critiques produced by different design panels.

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