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A first for CABE as watchdog takes a look at public-realm proposal

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For the first time in its history CABE has carried out a review of a public-realm document.

Drawn up by Gillespies and submitted on behalf of the North West Regional Development Agency and regeneration organisation RENEW, the document addresses the development of the North West of England.

Described by CABE as being of 'regional significance', the design watchdog said the paper had 'the potential to translate national guidance into a regional context and to extract the key elements which underpin the unique character of the North West'.

Despite applauding the initiative and claiming that the document 'should find an audience among designers and decision makers (and) clients,' CABE heavily criticised the final product.

The watchdog said: 'While the document is rich in its analytical spread, we feel it does not present a robust framework which will help readers to understand what would be an appropriate design response in a particular context.

'It is broad in its content and provides a comprehensive understanding of the qualities, principles and key elements that would make good public realm. However, we think it is lacking in some areas and wonder what this document adds to existing guidance.

'While the collection of case studies presents the range of design values, we are not convinced that they are representative of the variety of settlement types that characterise the North West (urban to rural, coastal resorts to industrial villages etc.).'

However, CABE ended on a positive note by recommending that the 'proposed status of the document is clearly established and an evaluation protocol is signed up to by regional and local partners'.

by Max Thompson

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