Tony Pidgley, Caroline Buckingham and John Bale take the government aside for a bit of a chat

In defence of Cabe

The ability to create places where people really do want to make their lives is critical to regeneration, and that is why Cabe’s promotion of excellence has been so important to all of us who care about the continuing renaissance of our towns and cities. The recent bad news about its funding suggests that the country could lose design advice just when we need it most.

Cabe made the whole industry think about placemaking and sustainable communities. And it had power: planners took its advice many more times than not, but it never pretended to be a substitute for the planning system. There is more to construction than just the planning system, important as it is, and Cabe has been influential with developers like myself as well as planners.

Cabe never promoted a particular style and this is demonstrated by the different sorts of schemes that won awards on its website. It looked as though 10 years of effort was paying dividends, with design, placemaking, quality and sustainability being embedded in the business strategy of more housebuilders, and 50% more schemes achieving a Building for Life standard in the past year alone.

I know that the government and Grant Shapps, the housing minister, really do want to achieve good design and placemaking and I hope that the industry continues to take up the challenges. Although we would like a planning system that addresses all these issues, I think Cabe has done a better job than everybody gives it credit for. And although it is easy to criticise Cabe, it certainly made Berkeley, and indeed the many councils we work with, think about quality, design and placemaking. Knocking Cabe is not the way forward for the industry.

Tony Pidgley, chairman, Berkeley Group

Don’t rush schools rethink

The new that the government is demanding 40% cuts from current school projects”was no surprise. We were all expecting a squeeze on budgets.

But there will be a fundamental challenge. Having a month to come up with savings on existing school projects is all very well, but how do you explain that to the head teacher and students you’ve been working with for the past few years? They have expectations, built up over time, that have to change fast.

The basic principle in funding Building Schools for the Future projects was a design solution based on an education vision, developed by the school and informed byconsultation and engagement. What do we now do with that vision? Do we rethink the scheme entirely or value engineer the solutions we have already created?

Rethinking has to be the answer because needs have to be met in the context of the existing school estate. This requires a masterplanning approach and my only concern is whether a month is long enough to reach a satisfactory solution.

Some investment of time and money upfront could ensure the greatest return in the long run, so let’s not be too hasty.

Caroline Buckingham, director and head of education, HLM Architects

Colin’s rallying cry

It’s good to see Colin Harding back in the pages of Building, proclaiming inconvenient truths with his customary passion (29 October, page 24).

Buildings are not merely industrial products, for reasons that do not have to be rehearsed in these columns. But that does not exempt construction from generic industrial realities. One is that unless design, production and responsibility are integrated, the purchaser will pay a premium price for a less-than-premium product.

Successive official reports have conveyed this message to the industry, but powerful vested interests have fought hard to retain professional fiefdoms, tinkering with procurement systems that were designed for a pre-industrial age, and sometimes creating new fiefdoms and new disconnections.

Fortunately there is now ample evidence that integrated design and construction can deliver the “more and better for less” that is needed. I share Colin’s hope that the coalition government will note that evidence, resist the siren calls of institutional conservatives and act accordingly.

John Bale, past president, CIOB, emeritus professor, Leeds Metropolitan University