Tory MP and former environment secretary described as ‘hard to match’ in architectural and political experience

Former Tory environment secretary John Gummer has emerged as the frontrunner for the post of chairman of CABE.

Gummer, who is MP for Suffolk Coastal, served in the Cabinet under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

As a former secretary of state for the environment, he meets the requirement for the CABE chairman to be a public figure familiar with the political and architectural worlds.

Gummer would not be drawn on whether he had applied for the job, but refused to rule himself out for it.

He said: “I am a great supporter of CABE and I think it’s done an excellent job. The chairman’s position is a very interesting job.”

Paul Hyett, former RIBA president, backed Gummer’s application, describing Gummer’s experience in the political and architectural spheres as “hard to match”.

Hyett said: “He was the best minister of the environment we have had since the last war. He was a breath of fresh air, and he had the intellectual capacity for the job, as well as being deeply committed to architecture. I also found him very helpful when I was at the RIBA.”

According to the job specification released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the successful applicant needs to have sufficient standing to deal with the political world and with the spheres of design, finance, development and the local authorities.

The job specification calls for a “leader in his or her field in the public or private sector” with “strong financial and governance awareness”.

It also stipulates the need to “understand the sensitivity to the interplay between CABE’s remit and wider commercial interests”.

Sir Stuart Lipton, the former CABE chairman, was obliged to step down in June after concerns were raised over a perceived conflicts of interest between CABE and his development firm, Stanhope.

Other political big-hitters linked to the role include former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, former shadow minister for the arts Mark Fisher, and former culture secretary Chris Smith.

Names from outside the political sphere include former RIBA president Marco Goldschmied and Paul Finch, the current CABE interim chairman – although Finch has said publicly that he will not apply.