Outgoing Cabe chair singles out Asda and Tesco in a impassioned speech calling for high standards in midst of recession

John Sorrell, the outgoing chair of Cabe, has used his valedictory speech to hit out at the “poor” quality of supermarket development.

He said: “[Supermarkets] must be challenged to try new things, stop building standard stores, and respond to local context without reverting to a wind turbine, pastiche design or a few shelves set aside for local produce,” he said.

John Sorrell, outgoing Cabe chair

Sorrell made specific mention of planning proposals by both Asda and Tesco in Barnet. “The Asda scheme fails on every level,” he said. He also attacked proposals for a Tesco in St. Helens in Merseyside ‘for it’s lousy public space’. He called on supermarkets ‘to come up with an alternative development model’.

His speech, Architecture In An Age of Anxiety, was an impassioned plea for architectural design quality to be maintained in the teeth of the recession. “Architects should resign a job which will create a bad building,” he stated.

Sorrell, whose Foundation advocates improved design in schools, claimed that design quality in the Building Schools for the Future was a bellweather for standards in all public buildings.

“If we see standards drop here then we are in trouble across the board,” he said. Comparing the current recession to that of 1825, he also made a plea for government to maintain public spending.

His remarks come at the end of five years at the helm of the government quango, a term in office which has ended with uncertainty over the organisation’s future amidst Tory pledges to stage a “bonfire of the quangos” upon coming to office.

However, in September Ed Vaizey, the shadow culture minister, said that he was ‘a huge fan’ of Cabe, while warning that it needed to maintain a distinctive remit from others.

Sorrell however, expressed reservations about the Tory policy of localism. “The simple old equation that private sector services are good and public sector services are bad flies in the face of most evidence,” he said.

Sorrell however, denied that he was making an implicit criticism of the Tory party proposals. “Cabe is a fantastic organisation. We tell the truth to whoever is listening,” he said.

He remains Chair of the organisation until Paul Finch takes over in December.