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Time has come to put the spotlight on CABE

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In 1999 a lusty infant, CABE, was born. Now the colour of its spots is clear, some of us might be forgiven for wondering if the foetus should have been aborted or the parents encouraged to strangle it at birth.

Putative successor to the Royal Fine Arts Commission, whom it superseded, it is becoming decidedly obese. As with any uncontrolled youngster it has reached the 'gimme!'

stage, casting greedy eyes on others' territory well outside its already wide remit. I refer, of course, to the takeover bid to relieve English Heritage of its statutory role vis-Ó-vis 20th century buildings. Could this be a reflex reaction, perhaps from pique, at EH's recent initiative to kill off Heron Tower, virility symbol of the tall building brigade of which CABE sees itself as leader?

Look at the annual report and accounts 2000/01 for proof.

Not only does the A3 page size say something (self-regard, inflated egos? ), but the contents are equally revealing. It gives a strong impression that tall building is favoured - or am I being over-sensitive? And the heading: 'Putting pedestrians first, ' concerning Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, might lead us to believe that concern for the well-being of pedestrians in the urban area would be paramount. Every pedestrian knows that in the vicinity of and from afar tall buildings can be distressing. And tourist visitors are equally affected. From this same document we learn that CABE 'concentrates onà projects which have a significant impact on a local environmentà' Try asking for a simple letter of support in such a case as I did - you might get a dusty answer with the excuse of 'lack of funds'.

The time is surely ripe for a thorough review of CABE's performance, questioning need, present formation, terms of reference and limits of remit in relation to existing bodies.

At this point I must mention the Architecture Foundation, an organisation facing curtailment of its most worthwhile activities as the result of a cut in government funding. It promotes discussion, holds exhibitions and initiates building projects to demonstrate good practice. To a degree its activities complement those of CABE.Who decides the size of its grant and through whom does it receive it? Our young friend, CABE! I rest my case.

John Bancroft, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

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