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Architects to 'lose out' in EH cull

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A massive restructure of English Heritage's planning division will leave architects without access to specialist heritage advice, a major conservation group warned this week.

The Institute of Historic Building Preservation (IHBP) has attacked a secret proposal to abandon EH's regional network, warning that the move will lead to a severely pared-back service.

The new structure, set for implementation next year, will entail the amalgamation of the nine regions set up in 1999 into four territories, each with a new manager.

The cull will do away with at least five of the existing regional directorships and all 13 of the highly influential assistant regional directors.

The quango's new leadership - under chief executive Simon Thurley and planning and development director Steve Bee - believes the changes will streamline the organisation, leaving the work of individual conservation officers relatively unaffected.

However, IHPB chair Eddie Booth warned that 'the work of architects throughout the UK would be affected by the cutbacks'.

'They say that they want to do less work and do it better, ' he told the AJ. 'But what will really happen is that informal consultation will go out of the window.

'We are very worried because this kind of advice will go, and people will be left unaware of what they need to do on conservation jobs. We think the reforms will lead to a withdrawal from the local market.

'The local authorities that are poorly staffed with conservation officers will really suffer from these cutbacks, as will the architects who work with them, ' Booth added.

However, EH dismissed these concerns, saying there would be very little changed on the ground. 'All we are trying to do is streamline the processes and ensure that they are more efficient, ' Bee said.

'The changes will enable the new regional directors to get more involved on the ground and start spreading the word about the importance of the built environment.

'We do need to provide more clear and consistent advice, ' Bee added. 'But we have to realise that we have been spreading ourselves too thinly to provide a really good service.'

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