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So farewell then. After nearly a decade, it has -nally ended. Architecture's unlikely and turbulent affair with the former shipping union rep has come to an abrupt halt. John Prescott's tenure at the helm of his supertanker of a department, the ODPM, was suddenly terminated in a Cabinet reshufe at the end of last week. So how would a school report for Hull's favourite son read at the end of his nine-year term?

It is sometimes easy to forget that Britain's cities have been transformed since Prescott arrived. Once again, people live in urban centres.

CABE exists. Design is an important part of the planning process. These are no mean feats.

Architects may have been horri-ed when Prescott visited Seaside in Florida; Modernists will certainly have had palpitations about his unlikely relationship with the Prince of Wales;

many will understandably be reticent about design codes; puritans will no doubt be disgusted at the extra-marital indiscretion that ended his ministerial career.

But let's not forget the surprisingly incisive Urban Task Force report; the occasionally successful regeneration initiatives; the new-found importance of urban design; the encouragement of mixed-use development; the acceptance that architects and architecture have an essential role in developing ourishing communities.

There are still problems, of course. Much of Britain's urban fabric is falling apart; many towns and urban areas are still ghettoised; far too many sub-standard buildings wind their way through the planning process. But the critical list is undeniably smaller than it was in 1997.

The ODPM at times appeared lacking in rationale, organisation and coherence. At times it seemed out of touch - and some even said it was pointless. But it is dif-cult to put the case that British cities would have been better off without it and its eccentric boss.

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