The government is set to strengthen the architecture portfolio by moving it from the culture department into the more powerful DCLG
The AJ understands the government will make an announcement next week about shifting the ministerial oversight of architecture from the culture department - the brief currently looked after by Ed Vaizey - to sit alongside housing, planning and sustainability.
Insiders claim the proposed ‘promotion’, which comes just weeks before the general election on 7 May, is a ‘direct result’ of last year’s Farrell Review and will see ‘design move higher up the government’s agenda’.
Steven Harding, private secretary to a series of architecture ministers at DCMS from 1998-2001, said: ‘It would definitely be a good idea to move architecture to be alongside planning at DCLG, as whatever clout DCMS had has long since dissolved. The timing is odd however - it seems a little presumptious to make machinery of government announcements in the dying days of this Parliament, ahead of an election that cannot be called, and before a post-election reshuffle that has yet to happen.
‘If, however, Vaizey were to hold a beefed up architecture brief after the election, that would be very good news for the sector and the profession. He’s the best architecture minister we’ve had for many years. And if Vaizey moves on, this would ensure that his successor would inherit a stronger portfolio.’
Anna Scott-Marshall, head of external affairs at the RIBA, added: ‘If it is true it is very welcome, we’ve long campaigned for responsibilities to move out of DCMS as little government decision making on architecture issues aside from heritage are made there. Much better to align with responsibilities on planning, housing and sustainability.
‘There is still more to be done to have a truly joined up government approach and emphasis on architecture policy where it touches upon schools, health, environment but this is most definitely a very positive move.’
Former RIBA president Jack Pringle added: ‘I congratulate Terry Farrell on this, it’s very good news. Architecture needs more clout, it’s just a pity that it can’t be more joined up with construction which is under BIS.’
Chris Brown of Igloo
‘The split responsibility was substantially the cause of Cabe’s demise, so bringing them together makes sense but will only be effective if there is a knowledgeable and motivated ministerial design champion.
‘Urban design, rather than architecture, is critical to successful town planning and the current planning system isn’t fit for purpose when it comes to delivering design quality despite the warm words in the NPPF.
‘The test of this change will be whether the planning system starts consistently delivering well-designed places.’