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editorial

The newly cash-rich government's not-veryindependent report into how it thinks it is faring last week had nothing direct to say about architecture. Odd, given how importantly ministers say Tony Blair takes this design business, but sadly not surprising. The annual report it did produce (which can be seen at www. annualreport. gov. uk/) does have a section on the environment, at least, but it focuses much more on pollution, bathing waters, new National Parks and road congestion than on saving energy - which gets a few nannying words - or the airy, continually-controversial notion of sustainable development (two lonely little lines about how the government is 'committed'). There's a section on housing with cash going to repairs and new social housing to cut homelessness. And there's education, education, education stuff on how school roofs will be fixed. All very worthy. But there is absolutely no place for the importance of artistic endeavour (not least economically), the main theme of this week's AJ. It is as if the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, architecture's home, never existed.

Contrast this with the words of that department's arts minister Alan Howarth, who visited the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) last week.

He was, he said, fed up with putting up with mediocrity and the 'downright ugliness of design'. After all, he added, measured across a building's lifetime it costs less to design and construct a building well. But who's looking after the smaller, public realm works? No-one.

So quite why Howarth, Chris Smith et al have not been able to find even £5 million (so far) from Gordon Brown's billions for CABE to set about this task is a mystery. But by forging a truly holistic view of how welldesigned, cost effective, and sustainable-ish buildings can directly contribute to almost every other part of that government report, a properly-funded CABEwould help. And that could be reinforced through an extended architecture centre network to tie in with boosted Regional Development Agencies, bringing decisions closer to the public. It might even win Blair better marks in next year's report.

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