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BISHOP MUST DEVELOP A LIGHTNESS OF TOUCH SO GENTLE IT IS INTANGIBLE

EDITORIAL

It seems apt at the time of the Conservative Party conference to ponder the right-wing concept of 'small government' - that the economy and the country benefit if the state adopts a 'lightness of touch' in dealing with individuals or businesses.

This magazine has little business coming down on either side of the socialist-capitalist debate. But the appointment of Peter Bishop (see pages 12-13) to head up the new organisation Design for London, brings the question sharply into focus. Does the capital really need yet another tier of architectural governance?

When Labour set up CABE in 1997, most architects greeted the birth of the quango with open arms, and it has largely done a good job.

Then in 2000, with the creation of the position of Mayor of London, Ken arrived.

Livingstone was handed the power to draw up the London Plan and to veto developments.

The mayor is also in charge of the London Development Agency and Transport for London, both of which are heavily involved with development in the capital. And, of course, there are the boroughs themselves; English Heritage; the Royal Parks; and any number of conservation groups to contend with. It is all becoming a bit much.

Design for London, a Livingstone invention aiming to 'integrate' design policy in his growing empire, represents yet another box to be ticked for architects.

But is it really necessary? Will it not overlap with just about every other organisation out there? Will it make any difference at all - other than as an obstacle to wealth creation?

Bishop says that his role and the role of his organisation are yet to be entirely defined. He must see this as an opportunity. He must make sure that he develops a 'lightness of touch' so gentle that it is almost intangible. This is his only option if he doesn't want to be considered just another meddling civil servant.

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