Building design in Wales will be given greater prominence if plans for a new version of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment are given the green light by the assembly next month.
The Institute of Welsh Affairs design and architecture working group submitted a report to the assembly this summer urging it to establish a Commission for Architecture and Design to develop a comprehensive policy on architecture and design.
The assembly is expected to give its verdict this autumn but the plan is understood to have found favour with planning and environment secretary Sue Essex.
The Welsh CABE would identify best practice in design procurement and sustainable land use, and would have a role in educating the general public on standards in the built environment.
The organisation would be separate from its English counterpart.
Another key proposal in the report, Designing Success, recommends that each member of the assembly’s cabinet should carry out an audit to assess the importance of design and architecture in every department to ensure that new buildings reached acceptable standards.
Bob Croydon, partner in King Sturge and Company and a member of the Institute of Welsh affairs design and architecture working group, was supportive of the proposals.
“Any constructive suggestion to improve design standards and support for better design is to be welcomed,” he said.
But Croydon warned against the proposed body becoming an ineffectual quango. “If the commissioners are appointed on the basis of who you know and not what you know, then it won’t make a lot of progress,” he added.
The report asks the assembly to limit the number of commissioners to eight and to ensure a mixture of designers, developers and representatives from bodies with an interest or expertise in environmental issues. A Welsh CABE would be funded by public and private cash, with the assembly providing a limited funding of £150 000 for core staff.
Chairman of the Royal Society for Welsh Architects Robert Firth strongly supports the idea. He said: “In Wales we have been too often left behind in the design stakes because the money is always in London.
“With the Welsh assembly, that might change. We need a Welsh version of CABE so that the assembly can control and encourage a better quality of design standards that might come with that change.”