The incoming chairman of Cabe has admitted the TV programme Grand Designs has had a greater impact on the public’s perception of design than the organisation he is soon to head

The admission came as Paul Finch (pictured), who takes over as chairman from Sir John Sorrell in December, offered a robust defence of Cabe’s role in the 10 years since its inception. It also came as Cabe revealed details of an internal audit showing that it had spent less than £1m on more than 250 design reviews, which it said proved the organisation’s value for money.

Finch said: “I think it would be arrogant to say that the public thinks more about design because of Cabe. You’d have to compare it to Grand Designs and say, ‘That’s had a greater influence.’” Finch insisted instead that “Cabe has had an effect on the movers and shakers in the public and private sector”.

The comments follow strong criticism of the organisation from some parts of the industry, and lingering concerns that an incoming Tory administration may abolish it.

Finch, a former deputy chair of Cabe, said: “We could scrap all of this and get back to doing rather patrician and limited design reviews like the Royal Fine Art Commission, but I doubt anyone would be in favour of that. It was a very limited programme”.

He added: “I think there will be future generations whose houses were built under Building for Life standards, who will look back and see how we made things better.”

Cabe’s Ten Year Review, seen by Building, showed it spent only £650,000 on design reviews last year, at £2,500 per review. Since 2002, Cabe has reviewed 393 school projects and given advice to 100 local authorities.