The government's key architectural adviser Lord Rogers has revealed plans to create a powerful urban lobby group which will rank alongside high-profile environmental campaigners such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
Following his attack on the government's failure to implement a clutch of key proposals in the long-awaited Urban White Paper (see page 20), Lord Rogers told the AJ he wants to step up the pressure on Labour 'to move faster and further'and create an independent organisation that will 'bang on the doors of ministers and city authorities'.
'I am fascinated by how successful the green lobby is, but we don't have an urban lobby to match, 'he said.'There are enough of us who live in cities and we need to be heard.'
He said that the organisation would extend the influence of the urban lobby beyond Whitehall, where the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has already had considerable success.
However, Lord Rogers is afraid that improvements in the urban realm could easily be sidelined if other issues force their way onto the government's agenda. He wants prime minister Tony Blair to create a new cabinet post of minister for urban affairs, against whom every policy would be tested for whether it helps cities or not.The campaign group would lobby for this new legislation in the form of an urban bill and other local issues as they affect different towns and cities.
Lord Rogers himself will not lead the campaign group as he is retreating from the national political scene to concentrate on London in his role as a cabinet member in Ken Livingstone's Greater London Authority.
'I'd like to think someone creative would lead it.We need visions rather than management, ' he said.'I can't keep the pressure up on my own.'Lord Rogers was expected to discuss the proposals with his former Urban Task Force (UTF) colleagues at a meeting this week.
Chairman of the Urban Design Alliance Brian Raggett welcomed the idea and even suggested a name for it - FORCE, which could stand for Friends of Regeneration for City Environments.
'The urban environment could capture the imagination in the same way as green issues, ' he said. 'It is something which needs a national identity, but would be better led by regional players making sure that there is appropriate civic leadership on regeneration.'
He proposed former environment secretary John Gummer or Michael Heseltine as potential leaders of a body, which would encompass the general public, big business, local authorities and groups such as English Heritage.
Lord Rogers suggested that former members of the UTF could help to develop the organisation.
Meanwhile, Lord Rogers reiterated his intent to implement as many of the UTF proposals in London as possible.
He said: 'I will look at the morphology of London in terms of height and width of buildings, but I also want to see a square in every neighbourhood and a bench in every neighbourhood. One of the primary reasons that Ken approached me was that he wanted to put the UTF approach into action through the GLA.'