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CABE in Liverpool Pathfinder volte-face

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CABE has made a surprise u-turn over its public criticism of Liverpool City Council for its handling of three controversial Pathfinder projects.

Less than two weeks ago the watchdog successfully persuaded Ruth Kelly, head of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), to slap holding directives on housing market renewal initiatives (HMRI) in Anfield, Edge Hill and Picton (AJplus 20/7/06).

Now, in an unexpected climb-down, CABE has decided to withdraw its objection to the proposed compulsory purchase orders - a move which implies the organisation is happy for large swathes of terraced homes to be demolished.

It is understood CABE decided to drop its opposition after forcing Liverpool City Council to agree not to grant planning permission for any of the schemes until the authority had received detailed feedback about the proposals from a new working group.

The commission had been concerned that recommendations voiced by this group, made up of representatives from English Heritage, the developers, local residents and CABE, would not be binding on either the council or the developer.

There were also fears that there were no enforceable masterplans, development frameworks or design codes.

However, it seems CABE is confident about the introduction of the new compulsory, supervisory system.

Selina Mason, the commission's design review director, said: 'It is the first time CABE has objected to a CPO and it is by no means an ideal process.

'It would have been better if the council had insisted on a masterplan in the first place. [But] what we have now achieved, through the details secured within the section 106 agreement, is a mechanism to ensure that design is considered before planning is granted.'

Unsurprisingly not everyone is convinced. Adam Wilkinson of SAVE Britain's Heritage believes the move still leaves too much control over design quality with the council.

He said: '[We are] surprised and disappointed by this change of direction and we wonder what it is it that so rapidly convinced CABE of the city's ability to bring about good design [especially] given some of the atrocious quality of some of the new build in Liverpool city.'

by Richard Waite

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