Design Council deputy chair Paul Finch has dismissed suggestions that the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is on its last legs, claiming ‘the best is yet to come’
Finch’s comments came after ex-CABE director Nahid Majid suggested the charity risked being subsumed into its parent organisation, the Design Council.
Majid was let go in November after less than a year in the director’s job. Describing her dismissal as a ‘complete shock’, she argued that a spate of recent key staff departures had placed CABE’s integrity ‘at risk’.
She also hit out at the hiring of management consultants, which she claimed came at the expense of ‘much-needed’ technical built environment delivery staff.
In response Finch said: ‘This has been a tough year for us, but we are a healthy organisation. From April 2011 to October 2012 we carried out 189 design reviews and organised workshops that have been attended by 134 councils.’
CABE’s government funding of £2.75 million from the DCLG ceases at the end of March next year when the design body will become entirely self-financing. Finch said while it would not become a consultancy, CABE will be in direct competition with private design review consultancies.
‘There is an almost inexhaustible demand for design reviews. In our view, the more the better,’ he said.
‘Our ambition to stand on our two feet, moving from a model of free service to a model where much is paid for but a proportion will still be free.
‘We will not be a consultancy to rival other organisations, we are a charity and our purpose is to make better environments and to provide advice to creators of environments.’
As well as the design review service, which at the moment costs up to £8,000 for a full report, CABE will offer an advisory role that would allow the Design Council to become a one-shop-stop for local authorities and large public schemes such as hospitals.
Finch said: ‘Historically the Design Council never dealt with the built environment, now we are all under one roof we can think holistically.
‘For the first time we have an organisation whose remit is to promote the value of good design across society as a whole rather than make a distinction between buildings and products.’
Design Council chief executive David Kester and CABE communications director Tony Burton both stepped down in the past twelve months. CABE design review director Di Haigh also left the organisation in October last year.
A Design Council spokesperson was unable to explain Majid’s departure, but said: ‘Her probation period was extended from three months by another seven months; during that time she was treated with dignity and respect.’
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