CABE has waded into the hugely controversial Pathfinder initiative in Liverpool by slamming the way the city council has handled three of the contentious projects.
The design watchdog successfully persuaded the Department for Communities and Local Government to issue holding directives for the three schemes, in Anfield, Edge Hill and Picton.
The move came after the quango's design reviewers had considered the proposed outline applications, which had been submitted in support of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) aimed at securing the demolition of the large number of terraced homes.
'CABE advised Liverpool City Council that the schemes should not be given planning approval because the applications did not contain enough information to demonstrate that the areas to be demolished would be improved by the new developments,' the organisation said in a statement this morning.
'There were no binding masterplans, development frameworks or design codes.
'Contrary to this advice, the council resolved to grant planning permission. A Section 106 condition was attached to the decision, stating that the developer should convene a working party to include CABE, English Heritage, the local authority and others to 'consider the detailed design strategy prior to the submission of reserved matters'.
'This had not been discussed with CABE. The recommendations of the working party could not bind the council or developer. We do not consider that this proposed mechanism can be relied on to secure good design.
'CABE has proposed to the council that they use their power as landowner, assuming the CPO is granted, to bind the developers to produce good design. This is a reliable and well established way to achieve compliance with design standards.
'Liverpool City Council has indicated its willingness to explore this. However, at the point that the CPO inquiry began, CABE considered that the approach Liverpool was proposing was insufficiently strong.
'CABE therefore registered its objection to the proposed CPOs,' the statement concluded.
In a letter to Liverpool City Council, the secretary of state at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Ruth Kelly said she had received 'a number of requests' demanding that the schemes were called-in.
This move seems to be yet another indication that Kelly could be cooling off over the contentious housing market renewal initiatives - the brainchild of John Prescott, dreamed up during his time in charge of the ODPM.
Only last month Kelly ordered Liverpool City Council to stop sitting on empty Victorian villas due to be bulldozed with Pathfinder cash (pictured) and put them up for sale on the open market (AJ 8/6/06).
However in an official statement released today, the DCLG insisted that Kelly had not changed her stance over the initiatives.
'The letter [to Liverpool Council] does not prejudge that decision and does not signal any change of policy in relation to housing market renewal on Merseyside.' by Ed Dorrell