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Lipton will go, admit CABE bosses

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The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's governing commissioners have bowed to the inevitable and accepted that Stuart Lipton will have to resign in the wake of the forthcoming audit report into 'conflicts of interest' at the design watchdog.

They have acknowledged that it is inappropriate for a highly active property developer to remain chairman of the organisation.

The independent auditor's report - which was expected imminently as the AJ went to press - is understood to clear CABE and its Design Review Committee (DRC) of any serious wrongdoing.

The report will state categorically that the organisation has taken reasonable steps to ensure that it operates in accordance with the Nolan principles, the government's rules defining conflicts of interest.

However the audit, by independent accountant AHL, was expected to recommend a series of changes to the way CABE works.

On the subject of the DRC, the auditor is likely to suggest the unpaid committee posts should be advertised in future in line with other CABE committee appointments. This would aim to reduce controversies about who reviews which schemes.

It was also expected to propose that CABE undertakes 'risk assessments' in relation to the chair of the DRC to ensure that management of potential conflicts of interest is as transparent as possible.

Commissioners, who are understood to be completely behind the new chairman Ken Shuttleworth, are likely to discuss how to implement these changes at their July meeting.

The report will also strongly recommend that nobody as active in property development as Lipton - chairman and founder of property giant Stanhope - should be put in charge.

Commissioners are known to have contemplated his resignation with regret, not just because of the contribution he has made to the organisation but the report found that CABE's procedures are fundamentally robust in dealing with conflicts of interest.

But they believe public perception is that conflicts of interest have changed the climate in which public bodies carry out their work.

Architecture minister Lord Mackintosh ordered the report last March after the DCMS received two formal complaints from local people concerned at proposed Stanhope developments in the 'Croydon Gateway' and at South Kensington Tube station (AJ 18.4.04). They were concerned about the relationship between Stanhope's development work and CABE design reviews.

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