I am surprised that in your report on the CABE “open design review” (1 July, page 16) you failed to mention that one of the main recommendations of the parliamentary select committee, which investigated CABE recently, was that its design review function should be entirely opened to public scrutiny.
The report, published in March, was very explicit: “CABE’s views on schemes can be highly influential on a local authority, but it is not clear how they have been reached. Design review panels should meet in public with a full record of the meeting going to the local authority.”
CABE’s response to this clear instruction was typically evasive. The so-called open meeting – by invitation only! – that your reporter attended proved that, while the design quango may have been shaken by the events of the past year, it has hardly stirred.
I have spoken to two people who were invited to attend the “show” meeting and left early, as they considered Terry Farrell’s presentation to be no more than an improper piece of self-promotion for an idea that is not even a planning application, and therefore a disgraceful waste of their time.
And the answer to your very relevant discussion point “Why shouldn’t CABE hold all its reviews in public?” is that, for the sake of democracy and transparency, it must. Sadly, attitudes like Paul Finch’s (“It’s tough on architects to go through a design review in the public gaze”) currently prevail over the view that it's tough on the public to have planning permissions in their area heavily influenced by what you describe as a “secretive process” in which they have no say and of which they are told nothing.
Mira Bar-Hillel, London Evening Standard