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Major change at Cabe as Finch replaced by Alexander as chair

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Paul Finch has stood down as chair of Cabe ending a 15-year relationship with the design watchdog

Finch, who became chair in 2009 and was due to stand down in December, agreed to extend his four-year tenure ‘to help oversee the new integrated structure [of Cabe into the Design Council]’ and to oversee the appointment of his successor, Pam Alexander.

Alexander,a board member of construction giant Crest Nicholson and the former chief executive of the South East Development Agency, takes over from Finch ‘with immediate effect’.

Finch, who will remain as a Design Council trustee, said he had left the organisation on a ‘firm footing’.

He said: ‘It is on an upward trajectory, especially with Claire Devine [Design Council director of architecture and the built environment], and Pam who is the right person to chair.

‘She has an incredible background. CABE is in a reasonably strong position to take work forward on an expanding basis,’ said Finch.

Finch said the most memorable scheme he had seen at design review was presented by David West, then working with will Alsop, who explained his scheme to partially flood central Bradford. He said: ‘It stands out as a truly terrific performance [by West].’

‘I’d rather not name the worst,’ he added.  ‘And anyway we didn’t tend to talk about really bad schemes where they had been successfully improved. It’s not always about making a really big noise about poor design.  Design review should be confidential, at least at pre-planning.’

The former chair also said being ‘called into then architecture minister John Penrose after months of constructive negotiations with officials in both the DCMS and DCLG about the future CABE’ was the worst moment in his tenure.

‘I was told by Penrose we would be getting zero in the public spending review and that the department was effectively winding us up.

‘It was an absolute shock and a dishonest decision. The DCLG acted honourably by not stopping the money they agreed to pay. They subsequently stuck to what had been negotiated. But the DCMS didn’t. I will never forgive them for that.’   

Finch’s successor will report into the Design Council’s Clare Devine, director of architecture and the built environment, and has been charged to continue Finch’s drive to make Cabe a self-financing enterprise within the Design Council.

She said: ‘It is an exciting time to take the chair of Cabe at the Design Council.  Paul Finch has successfully led the huge change of culture needed to move from a large grant-funded Commission to an agile and enterprising charity.

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