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Last Monday, Ed Dorrell met John Sorrell to discuss the appointment


When did you hear that you had got the chairman's job?

At the end of last week.

What did you make of the recruitment process? Did you think it took a long time?

No, not really. It was very standard for a job at a government agency.

Were you headhunted or asked to apply for the position?

I'm not sure that I want to answer that one.

Why were you interested in taking the job?

There are a number of reasons. The first and most obvious one is that I really believe that quality architecture can impact people's lives for the better. That this is true is something I care about enormously. I have done some work in schools and a little bit in hospitals and it is there that you can really see it.

How long do you expect to be in position?

I expect to be in post for the four-year term and then there will be a review - we will have to see.

What made you think that you'd be right for the position?

My experience at the Design Council should help - I really think that will make a difference.

I have also grown a very big design business and understand the design world and how to run a large organisation. But this is not really about me, it is about the staff and the success they can make of the business.

What have you made of the work of CABE since it was set up?

CABE has done a brilliant job in the five short years since its inception. It is clear that Stuart Lipton's contribution has been a colossal achievement, considering he only got going from a standing start. And it has also been notable what a good job Paul Finch did as interim chair since the summer. They have both shown enormous amounts of wisdom.

What do you make of the recent troubles, especially those surrounding the audit of a conflict of interest in the summer?

I think that all organisations have their ups and downs but I'm sure that CABE's poised to continue the good work. It has, for example, just done a stakeholder review that was very positive. Richard Simmons [the new chief executive] is a great guy and has already made an impact. And the other people there are so enthusiastic, I believe it can only be a success.

What do you make of the current debate surrounding how large the organisation should be? Should it grow to be a major player, influencing every development in every town, or should it be smaller and mainly aim to influence policy from London?

I would rather not comment on that one just yet. I do not think I'm ready to make that kind of judgement. We ought to discuss that one at a later date.

OK then, give me a more general comment about what you hope to achieve in your first four years.

I hope that in four years' time it will be as successful an organisation as it is now.

Do you have a favourite building?

I don't think that I'm ready for that kind of question yet.

Alright, what about a favourite city? Or somewhere you might have a house? Or even just somewhere that you are quite fond of visiting?

Well, my wife and I haven't been on holiday for a while. But I guess my favourite place is London - after all, I do chair the London Design Festival. However, I also love this country as a whole and believe that the work done all over the country by our Regional Committee is brilliant and I hope that it continues to do a really great job.

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