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RIBA and CABE must ‘talk to us' insist regional design review panels

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The country’s eight regional design review panels have urged the RIBA and CABE to talk to them about how to deliver their services ‘from the bottom up’

In recent weeks it has emerged both the RIBA and a ‘phoenix project’ CABE are vying to take on the running of design review regionally and that both hope to rely on the ‘existing structure’ of the Design Review Network.

However Timothy Cantell, the interim coordinator of the Design Review Network, said that there had not yet been ‘a creative level of engagement’ between these two ‘national bodies’ and the network.

He said: ‘In the spirit of localism, you’d expect a bid to be conceived from the ground: start with local communities and work up. We are providing local design review now, yet we have not been made full partners to either the RIBA or CABE proposals..’

It is understood the Department of Communities and Local Government has a small pot of money put aside to help run the regional panels although it is not yet clear how this cash will be allocated or through which mechanism or body it will be handed out.

If CABE disappears - and its proposed merger with the Design Council fails - Cantell insists the eight panels will still survive despite the lack of Regional Development Agency backing and said the network was looking at other ways of self-funding such as through planning performance agreements with councils. He added: ‘Even if CABE ceases to exist we are determined to continue.’

In response Diane Haigh, director of design review at CABE, said: ‘There is a huge demand for design review - and space for everyone to contribute. The network of affiliated panels is at the heart of CABE’s bid.’

Timothy Cantell’s letter in full

The two bids for design review are both from national bodies claiming to be capable of acting locally. We are providing local design review now, yet we have not been made full partners to either the RIBA or CABE proposals.

True, both bodies envisage using our existing structure. But we have ideas for how design review could be shaped and run, improving what is there now and responding to the Government’s agendas for localism, growth and regeneration. In the spirit of localism, you’d expect a bid to be conceived from the ground: start with local communities and work up.

We eight bodies form the only comprehensive sub-national network (outside London) for design review: we are as local as it is possible to get while using high-level expertise and before problems occur of conflicts of interest or parochialism. We work with city and district local panels in our areas and we also offer a complementary range of other design support services that include enabling, facilitation, training, community engagement, and awards. Post Regional Development Agency funding, we are developing, as part of the third sector, alternative financial models.

Oddly too, RIBA and CABE are competing not collaborating. We want a framework for design review that has the backing of all the professions and draws on the capacity that results from CABE’s merger with the Design Council. Governance of any new provision ought to include representatives of other public and voluntary sector bodies and the development industry.

We invite the body allocated Government funds to deliver design review to talk to our network as soon as possible. This dialogue has begun in that RIBA talked to Liverpool-based Places Matter, and CABE consulted us a little, but there has not yet been a creative level of engagement, with our network as equal partners. We want to contribute positively, not just be wheeled out when cued.

Timothy Cantell, Interim Coordinator, Design Review Network

on behalf of:

Creating Excellence (South West design review panel)
IGNITE (North East design review panel)
Integreat Yorkshire (Yorkshire design review panel)
Kent Architecture Centre (South East design review panel)
MADE (West Midlands design review panel)
Opun (East Midlands design review panel)
Places Matter! (North West design review panel)
Shape East (East of England design review panel)

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