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CABE merge: ‘reset button’ for design review

Design Council chief executive David Kester has promised to ‘press the reset button’ and re-examine the design review process following the organisation’s merger with CABE

Last week, the government officially approved the much-anticipated link-up between the two bodies – revealed exclusively by the AJ last year (AJ 09.12.10) – which comes just four months after the Department of Culture Media and Sport pulled CABE’s funding.

Speaking to the AJ shortly after the announcement on Friday (11 February) Kester said: ‘This is a new beginning. What started out as practical response to an urgent problem has actually created a powerful, integrated organisation.

‘It is also the moment to press the reset button and look at what works best in terms of design review.

‘How do we really make this work for architects, planners and developers? This is a big subject and not one to approach in an ad hoc way.’

He added: ‘We are absolutely committed to ensuring there is no loss of service, but it is important to make design review work at a local level.’

Around 20 CABE staff – including a core team focusing on design review – will transfer to the council’s Covent Garden offices. The CABE name will initially remain, although plans for a new banner have been mooted.

The Design Council’s staff of around 60 is set to slim down to a similar size as part of the organisation’s response to Francis Maude’s quango review.

Kester added: ‘The CABE staff is similar in number to that which worked at CABE [under previous chief executive] John Rouse and is absolutely adequate to the tasks asked of it right now.’

Richard Simmons, who Kester described as the ‘true hero of the story,’ will not have a position. But Simmons agreed there would be an opportunity to ‘recalibrate’ design review once the Localism Bill had been passed.

CABE chair Paul Finch is expected to have an ongoing role with CABE and a role within the Design Council. The organisation will continue to be financed by several sources. This includes grants from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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