Institute’s proposal is seen as rival to Cabe’s proposed Design Council merger

The RIBA has launched a bid to take control of design review from architecture quango Cabe.

Under its proposal, put to housing minister Grant Shapps, the RIBA would run local design review panels and provide advice to communities on drawing up neighbourhood plans, according to architecture magazine Building Design.

The bid comes as Shapps is also considering a proposal from Cabe to continue its design review and enabling services through a merger with the Design Council. He is thought likely to approve only one of the two bids, with the design watchdog set to be wound up in March unless its merger proposal is approved.

The RIBA’s proposals will see it use its regional network and partners such as the Liverpool-based Places Matter architecture centre, to fit in to the government’s localism drive.

While RIBA president Ruth Reed denied the institute’s action could deliver the final coup de grace to Cabe, figures at the watchdog are privately frustrated by Riba’s action, which they see as competitive.

Reed said: “We had a meeting at Cabe’s offices with [CLG director general of housing and planning] Richard McCarthy and he asked us to make a proposal on local design review. We put a proposal forward for a working business model. We already have [design review] panels operating around the country.

“Cabe has never had any involvement with the village or the small urban area. This reflects our desire to have this close grain association with localism. It’s a big opportunity. It will provide local design review and assistance and will see architects there at the heart of the process.”

Reed confirmed that the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Landscape Institute had been involved in the bid at an earlier stage but had pulled out due to concerns about the “financial commitment”.

But she insisted that other professions such as landscape architects and highway engineers would be involved and denied there was a financial risk for RIBA members.

“We have made it very clear to government that the Riba doesn’t fund design review,” she said, adding that panels could be funded by fees from local authorities and developers along with help with start-up costs from government.

Former RIBA president Jack Pringle, who helps chair Brent Council’s design review panel, welcomed the move, saying it would put architects back in charge of design standards. “Cabe merging with the Design Council just continues the malaise of asking everyone except architects about design,” he added.

Annie Atkins, programme director at Places Matter, which has just completed its 200th design review, confirmed it was being held up as a model organisation under the RIBA bid.

“We are a partner organisation with RIBA,” she said. “We are one of eight sub-regional panels funded [until now] by the regional development agencies.”

BD revealed last month that the two were also collaborating on a bid to create a landmark regional outpost for the RIBA in Liverpool.

A version of this story appeared first here in Building’s sister publication, Building Design.