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South East agency has new designs on quality with CABE

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South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) chief executive Anthony Dunnett (left) is looking for about 30 architects and other consultants to form a new design panel in a joint venture with CABE. He wants to lift the quality of new schemes in a region which will have a staggering £180 billion spent on property in the next decade.

Dunnett, who two years ago revealed his plans for a wide-ranging housing competition at Chatham Maritime (AJ 16.3.00), told the AJ at MIPIM in Cannes last week that he wants the pool of consultants to be a wide mix of experts and that a quarter of that number should be 'young' architects under 40. The idea is to have a panel of 12-15 at a time assessing schemes in a similar manner to CABE's design review team - and Dunnett believes that just being on the panel will be reward enough for the unpaid posts.

'For emerging people and young architects it will be a huge opportunity to sit alongside some masters, ' said Dunnett, who draws an analogy with the valuable experience he gained through being involved with the Millennium Villages programme when he headed English Partnerships.

'This will be an associate of CABE activity, not a subsidiary. My aspiration is that all significant projects with public sector funding would be put to the panel because it's a creative, helpful service which can enable projects to be more successful.'

CABE will point some schemes it feels it cannot handle SEEDA's way and there will be others going in the opposite direction, although Dunnett was keen to stress it was not a devolution of CABE's responsibilities and none from the region will be assessed twice. The agency will, for example, look at all schemes with 50 houses or more in the residential field. SEEDA has been looking to create the panel for more than a year but had to go to the OJEC to tender the job to run it - the North Kent architecture centre headed up by Barry Shaw won through to become the secretariat.

Names that could be involved include Piers Gough, who chaired SEEDA's Chatham International panel - the practices involved in that competition's shortlist may also appear, perhaps alongside the winner, Buschow Henley.

Dunnett envisages no problems on the panel in terms of conflicts of interest, since the size of the pool will be able to cope, he said. Those practices which choose to ignore the calls of the new panel could be 'named and shamed'. The 'light touch' panel will meet according to demand: 'But it wouldn't surprise me if it's monthly, ' said Dunnett. Advertisements asking for nominations will go out shortly.

Dunnett revealed that his organisation is also in discussions about creating new architecture centres in Southampton, Portsmouth and Milton Keynes.

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