Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by CABE (The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) (CAB 02(a))


  1.  Map of CABE's activities across England

  2.  Listing of CABE publications and research output

  3.  Criteria used by Design Review to consider projects

  4.  Example Design Review letters

    —  CABE's published comment on proposals for a new hospital in Birmingham, submitted by the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust

    —  CABE's published comment on proposals to regenerate a prime edge of city area with major mixed-use development in Hereford.

  5.  Letter from DETR to planning authorities of 15 May 2001




    —  Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award 2004: Shortlist

    —  21st Century Libraries: Changing forms, changing futures

    —  Better Public Libraries

    —  Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award 2003

    —  Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award 2002

    —  Better Civic Buildings and Spaces

    —  Building Projects: Your role in achieving quality and value


    —  Green Space Strategies: A Good Practice Guide

    —  Creating Successful Masterplans

    —  Supplement to Client Guide for ACP Projects: Selecting a Design Team

    —  Supplement to Client Guide for ACP Projects: EC Procurement

    —  Supplement to Client Guide for ACP Projects: Planning the Procurement Process

    —  Supplement to Client Guide for ACP Projects: The Project Manager

    —  Supplement to Client Guide for ACP Projects: The Design Brief

    —  Client Guide for Arts Capital Programme Projects


    —  Design and Modern Methods of Construction

    —  Getting Value for Money from Construction Projects through Design: How Auditors Can Help

    —  Creating Excellent Buildings: A Guide for Clients

    —  Improving Standards of Design in the Procurement of Public Buildings

    —  Celebrating Innovation


    —  Design Review-ed: Town Centre Retail—Lessons Learnt from Projects Reviewed by CABE's Expert Design Panel

    —  Design Reviewed: Masterplans—Lessons Learnt from Projects Reviewed by CABE's Expert Design Panel

    —  Design Review-ed: Issue 1

    —  Design Review: An Introductory Guide


    —  Building for Sure Start

    —  Client Guide: Achieving well designed schools through PFI

    —  Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative—Design Competition

    —  Schools for the Future—Designs for Learning Communities—A DfES Publication

    —  A Bibliography of Design Value


    —  The Role of Hospital Design in the Recruitment, Retention and Performance of NHS Nurses in England

    —  Healthy Hospitals Report November 2003

    —  2020 Vision: Our Future Healthcare Environments

    —  Primary Care—Making a Better Environment


    —  Design Review-ed: Urban Housing—Lessons Learnt from Projects Reviewed by CABE's Expert Design Panel

    —  Housing Futures 2024: A Provocative Look at Future Trends in Housing

    —  Shaping Future Homes: Issue 3

    —  Shaping Future Homes: Issue 2

    —  Building Sustainable Communities: Actions for Housing Market Renewal

    —  Building for Life: A Commitment to quality from Housebuilders

    —  Urban Regeneration—The New Agenda for British Housing—Summary Report

    —  Shaping Future Homes: Issue 1

    —  The Value of Housing Design and Layout

    —  Building for Life Newsletter

    —  Building for Life Manifesto

    —  Building for Life: An Introduction


    —  Guidance on Tall Buildings 2003 (CABE/English Heritage)

    —  Local Authority Design Champions

    —  Safer Places: The Planning System and Crime Prevention with the Home Office & ODPM

    —  Local Government Design Survey 2004: The Results

    —  Councillor's Pack: A Resource to Help Elected Members Champion Great Design

    —  The Use of Urban Design Codes

    —  Architecture and Race: A Study of Black and Minority Ethnic Students in the Profession

    —  Protecting Design Quality in Planning

    —  The Professionals' Choice: The Future of the Built Environment Professions

    —  Building Sustainable Communities: Developing the Skills We Need

    —  Moving Towards Excellence in Urban Design and Conservation

    —  Planning & Compulsory Purchase Bill—CABE's position

    —  Regional Development Agencies and the Future of Physical Regeneration in England with RICS & Northumbria University

    —  Minority Ethnic Students and Practitioners in Architecture

    —  Local Government Design Survey 2001—The Results

    —  Urban Design Skills Working Group—Report to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration

    —  Better Public Buildings

    —  By Design—Urban Design in the Planning System: Towards Better Practice (with DETR)


    —  Parks Need People Need Parks

    —  Is the Grass Greener . . . ? Learning from International Innovations in Urban Green Space Management

    —  CABE's Expert Design Panel

    —  A Guide to Producing Parks and Green Space Management Plans

    —  Involving Young People in the Design and Care of Urban Spaces

    —  Manifesto for Better Public Spaces

    —  The Value of Public Space

    —  Green Space Strategies: Making the Most of Your Parks and Green Spaces

    —  From Rags to Riches: The Case for Better Public Spaces

    —  Streets of Shame—Executive Summary

    —  Paving the Way: How We Achieve Clean, Safe and Attractive Streets

    —  The Value of Urban Design


    —  CABE's Expert Design Panel

    —  Shifting Sands: Design and the Changing Image of English Seaside Towns

    —  Breaking Down the Barriers

    —  Building in Context (with English Heritage)

    —  The Value of Good Design


    —  Annual Report 2004

    —  Corporate Strategy 2004-07

    —  Annual Report 2002-03

    —  Corporate Strategy 2003-04—2005-06

    —  The Strategic Enabling Scheme—Local Authority Expression of Interest

    —  Make Space: An introduction to CABE Space

    —  Thinking Space: CABE Space sets out a one year work plan

    —  CABE Introductory Leaflet

    —  Annual Report 2001-02—Sense of Place

    —  Corporate Strategy 2002-05

    —  Design Review

    —  CABE Annual Report 2000-01


  The criteria for whether to comment and for the allocation of schemes to tiers, in order of importance, are:

    —  "Significance" in accordance with DETR consultation letter

    —  Assessment of extent of need for and likely usefulness of CABE advice

    —  Significance in accordance with CABE's corporate priorities and funding agreements (eg projects in housing growth areas and housing market renewal areas)

    —  The fact that the higher the tier of review, the more thoroughly the scheme is reviewed, and the more authoritative CABE's views will perceived to be by recipients

    —  Assessment to ensure geographical spread of casework

  The criteria used in reviewing projects are set out in CABE's publication "Design Review" and published on CABE's website. These may be summarised as follows:

    —  Approach of the client

    —  Expertise of the design team

    —  Suitability of the procurement process

    —  Adequacy of the project brief

    —  The planning context

    —  Analysis of the physical context

    —  The project in relation to its physical context, including the public realm and the historic environment

    —  Masterplanning/site planning.

    —  Building design (does the building work; is it sound, durable and sustainable; and does it look good?)


Mark Britnell Chief Executive

University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Queen Elisabeth Hospital, Main Drive, Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre, Edgbaston B15 2TH.

12 August 2004


Dear Mr Britnell

  Thank you for coming to the meeting of CABE's design review committee on the 29 July in connection with this scheme. We are grateful for the trouble that was taken in preparing the presentation material and for the presentation itself. Having considered the scheme in the light of the presentation and the discussion which followed it, the committee's views are as follows:

  We welcome the opportunity to comment again on the proposals for this significant new hospital development in Birmingham. We last reviewed this scheme a year ago when it was one of two bidders and our comments at the time were directed at the Trust. We are pleased that they have sought to share this information with the Consort team and that subsequently they have been given the opportunity to respond to our concerns as well as those of the local authority. We are encouraged by the continued interest at a high level within the Trust regarding issues of design quality.

  A hospital of this size and prominence ought to be an exemplar of the public sector's commitment to high design standards through the Better Public Buildings programme. It should be a plausible candidate for the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award. We are not yet convinced that it has reached this standard but we are optimistic that this could be achieved given enough time for the design detailing and the commitment to quality.


  We are pleased that the time and effort has been taken to revisit the siting of the initial proposal and that a masterplan and broader urban design analysis is informing the design thinking. In particular, the further exploration of the urban grain, reconciling the grids presented by the existing buildings and the archaeology, and developing the movement patterns beyond the site boundary are major steps towards improving the scheme. The result is a far more convincing project. The improvements seem to have come about as a result of a number of factors: the repositioning of the building, the need to reduce the affordability gap, the additional time allowed for considering the design, and further consideration of the masterplan layout.

  The need to reduce the size of the hospital in response to affordability issues has, in our view, demonstrably led to a more comfortable and understandable building. This is still a vast building, but the necessity to reduce the amount of accommodation, which was previously causing difficulties in arriving at a design which worked well, has allowed the architects to make the function and design of the hospital work for them rather than against them. We are encouraged that, at this stage, it is the quantity of accommodation that has been reduced rather than the aspiration for high quality.

  In our view, the organisational diagram and logic of the layout and adjacencies seems to be working well—this has not been achieved in some other large hospital schemes we have seen recently. The use of the topography to separate servicing, visitors and A&E is a welcome proposition and appears to assist the management of the clinical adjacencies.


  The proposed movement patterns across and around the site are now far more convincing. The ability for car drivers to drop patients and visitors then re-circulate in a clear manner back to the car park will assist people with way finding. Returning to the main entrance at grade will lead to the feeling of familiarity and may help put anxious people at ease. We are concerned that the distances from the extremities of the car parking to the wards, via the canopy, the entrance and the hospital street are extremely long. We wonder whether there is the possibility of allowing access to the cores B and C of the hospital street or outpatients' corridor directly from the car park to the south. A possible, more ambitious, alternative may be to make more use of the roof space above outpatients to deliver people from the car parking to core B at the same level as A&E.

  We welcome the further work carried out in identifying and enhancing the main pedestrian and cycle routes across the site. The model does not yet illustrate these as well as the drawings, and we reiterate our point made last year that these routes need to be direct; that the kerb-to-kerb distance of crossings of roads should be minimised; that where needed, pedestrians should be given priority over vehicle traffic; and that pedestrian routes should be well lit and well observed from adjacent buildings.


  A welcome consequence of the re-positioning of the building is that there appears to be a more open feel to the campus and the opportunity for a substantive landscaped area, rather than a number of incidental "left-over" spaces. The ability to reorder and enhance the open space gives the proposal the potential to be something beyond one's normal expectations of a hospital campus. We welcome the further development of the landscape design for the area of the scheduled ancient monument, and note that this is to be a separate commission. We are also encouraged by the development of a formal hard landscape area at the entrance to the hospital, linking the new with the existing. We would wish to see the landscape strategy further developed to ensure that areas adjacent to Vincent Drive and between the plaza and the drop off zone are not simply leftover spaces amongst access roads, but are integral to the network of open spaces. If handled appropriately these spaces could become useful additions to the therapeutic environment of the hospital, allowing patients and visitors to feel that they are able to leave the confines of the hospital wards, without leaving the site.

Built form

1.  Mental health

  Most of our concern about the architecture is directed at the Mental Health buildings. We understand the constraints imposed on the positioning of these buildings on this sensitive part of the site and we welcome the way in which the topography of this site is being used as an asset rather than a constraint to be engineered away. We also appreciate that the buildings are designed to be familiar and have a smaller, human scale; the use of pitched roof to the wards for example.

  However, the buildings have the appearance of having to respond in design terms to too many constraints, without any underlying ideas that would deal with these. We appreciate that the site, the schedule of accommodation and the clinical needs are difficult to reconcile successfully. Unfortunately, the result is a set of buildings lacking coherence or empathy with their surroundings—some built elements are curved, some buildings are "kinked", staircases appear stuck on and other accommodation seems to "pop out"—the entrance and reception to the Adult Acute, or the lecture theatre to the Older Adult Unit, for example. These buildings appear as if they could be part of the older estate, developed as an accretion of accommodation, rather than a new and rational set of propositions. In our opinion, there is a need for coherence and clarity in their design. For many people, these buildings will form their first impression of the hospital; their design needs to be improved to reflect this importance.

2.  Acute buildings

  We continue to find the shape of the ward blocks both intriguing and problematic. Our previous concerns about the nature of the courtyards, the actual level of daylight in some of the lightwells and courtyards and the potentially relentless internal curved corridors remain. We are pleased that the atria are now open to the sky rather than being enclosed with a lightweight PTFE roof.

  This is a very large building with an extremely large and significant roofscape. The roofs of the wards and the lower blocks will form a prominent part of the long distance and close views, and so they need to be considered as a "fifth elevation" in visual terms. We have some reservations about the dominant forms of the roofscape of the ward block. Such bold forms imply something rather grand, perhaps huge spaces underneath, whereas the actual accommodation is subdivided into quite small parts; and there is no reflection of the fact that there are large areas of plant at the upper levels, or of the circulation routes, which might be top lit at this level. If large parts of the plant housing require access to fresh air, freely available at this level but not shown in the scheme, perhaps it would be better to address this now rather than later and make it a part of the architecture, rather than something that compromises an architectural idea later.

  Any flues, telecommunications equipment etc need to be carefully designed and disposed under the control of the architect before planning permission is granted; and we recommend that planning conditions closely control such matters. We draw attention to the importance of illustrating the building's skyline in near and distant views.

  It will be important that the designers do further work at this stage on the detailed design of the ward blocks, and the materials to be used. At present it appears as though the facades of the wards are smooth and curved. In reality the windows are unlikely to be curved pieces of glass, so the building is unlikely to have the smooth, continuous surface as illustrated; there are likely to be reveals and different depths to the panels. We would wish to be consulted about these materials and details in due course, as they will have a dramatic effect on the appearance of the building.

  Great care will need to be taken with the design of the corridor links across the courtyard; they need to be as light and transparent as possible from the point of view of maintaining the sense of a single external space in the courtyard, while providing a comfortable and dignified route for users of all kinds, who may not want to feel over-exposed to view. The final effect is almost certain to be less light and transparent than indicated now so it would be better to own up to this and explore the consequences.

  Further thought should also be directed at the design of the link bridge to the existing hospital buildings. This will be an important and highly prominent element of the scheme and if not designed with care could undermine the quality of the project.

  In conclusion, we are pleased that the larger part of this project appears to be developing in a promising way. For the promise to be realised in the face of all sorts of pressures that may stand in its way will require above all continuing commitment to quality on the part of the client. We would be happy to advise further on the development of the designs.

  Please keep the committee in touch with the progress of this scheme. If there is any point on which you would like clarification, please telephone me.

Peter Stewart

Director of design review

cc    Dan Smyth  Building Design Partnership

      Yasim Visram  Nightingale Associates

      Alex Greenbank  Birmingham City Council

      Michael Taylor  English Heritage

Declarations of Interest

  CABE Commissioner Paul Morrell (not present at the meeting) has declared an interest: his Cambridge office are capital and life cycle cost and FM advisers to the NHS Trust

Dr David Nicholson Herefordshire Council Planning Services, P O Box 144, Hereford, Herefordshire HR4 9ZP.

19 May 2004


  Thank you for coming to the meeting of CABE's design review committee on the 6 May in connection with this scheme. We are grateful for the trouble that was taken in preparing the presentation material and for the presentation itself. Having considered the scheme in the light of the presentation and the discussion which followed it, the committee's views are as follows:

  We welcome the ambition to regenerate this prime edge of city area with major mixed-use development. While we are sympathetic to the aspirations underpinning the development framework, they seem however to have been lost in translation into the masterplan propositions.

  In our view, too much detail has been proposed too soon, making it impossible to distinguish between the key principles and what is merely suggestive or indicative. Before attempting to draw individual building footprints, we think that the fundamental development principles should be set out, including a strategy for phasing and delivery; we support the involvement of an appropriate delivery vehicle such as an Urban Regeneration Company. (The CABE publication Creating Successful Masterplans: A Guide for Clients contains more detailed guidance). This scheme will be built out over a twenty-year time frame and will need a clear structure that is robust enough to accommodate future potential as well as current requirements; while there should be some idea at this stage who will occupy the proposed buildings and spaces, the future uses and layouts of the individual development sites will be largely demand driven. In our view, the following aspects need further consideration to form the basis of a convincing masterplan.

Urban Grain

  We cannot understand how the structure of the existing medieval street pattern, with its clear grid of urban blocks and relationship between fronts and backs, has generated such a fractured block plan. In our view, the new development should be based on sound urban design principles; Edinburgh New Town, where development follows an ordered grid sympathetic to the scale of the historic core and successfully combines a mixture of uses, is one example of a successful approach to expanding an historic city with new building typologies.

  Accommodating large food stores within a traditional grid pattern is challenging and the masterplan must be robust enough to ensure that the supermarket does not compromise the proper development and phasing of the whole area; this will be particularly important if it comes forward as a first phase of development in advance of other key elements. We are not convinced that superimposing an out-of-town supermarket plan in a sea of car parking across an important visual and physical link route from the new cultural and leisure quarter to the city centre is the best way to proceed. In our view, the store should not be seen as an isolated element but rather as part of the overall fabric; there are plenty of good examples of town centre supermarkets within the ground floor of an urban block.

Public Realm

  We are not convinced that the public realm strategy as currently proposed is developed enough to structure the masterplan. The site planning is very loose with too much open space lacking any sense of enclosure or idea who or what it is for. The built form around the canal, for example, provides no containment to the extensive green spaces. Black Friars Gardens bleeds out into existing school playing fields making unconvincing "heart" to the scheme. Three car parks leave huge gaps within the study area; we wonder whether one car park could serve the supermarkets and stadium. We are not necessarily arguing for a high-density development, although six units per acre is incredibly low, but rather strongly defined built edges to contain appropriately sized spaces. The village high street or Smithfield Market in London are two different examples of low density development which provide a successful public realm with defined edges. We think it is essential to draw a figure ground diagram to show the size and kinds of spaces proposed in relation to the grain of the city centre, with the framework of routes superimposed to clarify the important pedestrian connections.

  There is currently no sense of a hierarchy of routes in the proposals. The importance of historic Widemarsh Street is suppressed and a new desire line through a supermarket forecourt played up; if the axis with All Saints Church is significant, and we do not think that a strategic masterplan should be dependent on one view, then the tension between this alignment and the supermarket plan needs to be resolved.

  The linkages to the historic core are all predicated on downgrading the ring road. While we welcome the aspiration to reintegrate the study area with the city centre, we are concerned that building a new road to the north will exacerbate the problem on the three remaining edges, making an island site into a peninsula. In our view there has to be a much more fundamental solution to the traffic problem, addressing east-west connectivity and traffic loading on the A49 and Commercial Road; there may be a case for suppressing the existing inner ring road rather than building a new one. Herefordshire Council will need to be robust and realistic in addressing this constraint that is outside of the immediate control of the masterplan.

  Finally, having identified the poor connectivity with transport infrastructure as a major constraint, the masterplan fails to propose an integrated transport strategy which, in our view, should be fundamental to the scheme.

  This scheme has plenty of tactics but no clear strategy. We encourage the architects to go back to basic urban design principles and to clarify and simplify their approach. The CABE publication Design Reviewed: Masterplans contains more detailed guidance.

  Please keep the committee in touch with the progress of this scheme. If there is any point on which you would like clarification, please telephone me.

Peter Stewart

Director of design review

  cc  Mike Smith  MacGregor Smith Ltd

      John Hewitt  Stubbs Rich Architects

      Mike Taylor  English Heritage


To all Local Planning Authorities in England

Tuesday 15 May 2001


  The Royal Fine Art Commission (RFAC) was a non-statutory consultee for the purposes of planning applications. Following the winding-up of the RFAC and the creation of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), the Department has agreed that CABE should become a non-statutory consultee in place of the RFAC. The present guidance on non-statutory consultation is set out in DOE Circular 9/95 and in the "Statutory and Non-Statutory Consultation Report" published by DETR in January 2001. This letter explains the arrangements for consulting CABE.

The non-statutory consultation arrangements

  The Government has charged CABE with the promotion of excellence in architecture and the built environment throughout England. It is doing this in a number of ways. Reviewing the design of projects which have been submitted for planning permission is only one of them. CABE is also devoting a high proportion of its efforts to becoming involved in projects at an early stage, helping clients, designers and local authorities to achieve the best possible quality.

  CABE sees design review as an important aspect of its work and its Design Review Committee meets monthly to consider proposals. It considers about 30-40 projects a year on the basis of full presentations and a similar number from submitted papers and drawings. In addition, CABE can offer informal advice on other projects on which local authorities consult it.

  In view of the limited number of proposals on which it can advise, CABE wishes to be consulted about projects which are significant in some way. This is difficult to define precisely because significance is not necessarily related to the size of the project, its location or type, but guidance is set out below. This will be kept under review in the light of experience.

  The Government wishes CABE to pay increased attention to proposals whose significance is mainly regional or local. This is a wide remit and is concerned not just with metropolitan centres and historic areas but, for example, with deprived areas, suburbs, small towns and villages. Design review can be used to help raise the quality of proposals for buildings and structures because they have the potential to enhance the quality of people's everyday lives and promote social inclusion. Such proposals may include housing schemes, mixed use developments and changes to public realm.

  An important part of CABE's remit is to scrutinise the quality of buildings in the public sector, in particular those procured through the Private Finance Initiative, and of projects involving public money. For this reason, the Department is particularly interested to see CABE consulted about such projects.

  To assist authorities in deciding whether to consult CABE, the Department has agreed with the Commission the following guidance on significant projects.

  1.  Proposals which are significant because of their size or the uses they contain

  This category includes:

    —  large buildings or groups of buildings such as courts, large religious buildings, museums or art galleries, hospitals, shopping and leisure complexes, and office or commercial buildings;

    —  infrastructure projects such as stations, airports and other transport interchanges, bridges, power stations and waste incinerators; and

    —  major changes in the public realm such as pedestrianisation schemes or proposals to enhance public squares and civic open spaces.

  2.  Proposals which are significant because of their site

  In this category are proposals which affect important views—into or from a World Heritage Site, for example—or are sited in such a way that they give rise to exceptional effects on their locality. A relatively modest proposal can be of strategic importance to a town or city if it is situated at an important street junction, in a square, on a river bank or on the approach to the urban area.

  3.  Proposals with an importance greater than their size, use or site would suggest

  This includes:

    —  proposals which are likely to establish the planning, form or architectural quality for future large scale development or re-development;

    —  proposals which are out of the ordinary in their context or setting because of their scale, form or materials;

    —  proposals which are particularly relevant to the quality of everyday life and contain design features which, if repeated, would offer substantial benefits for society.

  Timing and nature of discussions with CABE

  CABE's staff are happy to advise planning authorities whether they wish to be consulted about a particular proposal. They can be contacted at:

    The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London, SE1 7NX. Tel: 020 7960 2400. Fax: 020 7960 2444 or through

  In line with the recommendations in the report mentioned in paragraph 1 of this letter, authorities should set clear deadlines for comment by CABE, as for other consultees, having regard to the Government's Best Value target for handling planning applications and to the circumstances of the case.

  As well as offering formal advice on planning applications, CABE is prepared to become involved in some schemes more closely, offering advice at all stages including the preparation of the brief and during the design process itself. CABE wants to contribute to the quality of urban areas in the widest sense and is prepared not only to advise on landmark buildings but, for example, housing developments, retail facilities or townscapes. It therefore welcomes approaches from local authorities and others at the earliest possible stage, when it will consider and advise whether it wants to become involved in a project in this informal way, and whether it wants to review the design of a project formally at a later stage.

  If CABE does not want to become involved in a project on which it has been consulted it will say so in writing. In such cases, there is no need for CABE to be consulted formally again as part of the planning process. In all other cases it should be notified when a planning application is submitted. However, whatever CABE's previous position on relevant applications, authorities should consider notifying CABE if those applications are called-in by or the subject of an appeal to the Secretary of State in case CABE wants to draw attention to particular issues that might be considered during the inquiry.

  When CABE intends to consider a project in its Design Review Committee, the developer and designer will be invited to explain the project. A member of staff, committee member or both will usually make a site visit. The scheme will then be presented to the Committee on the basis of drawings, models, photographs or other presentation materials, by the architect if there is a formal presentation and otherwise by a member of CABE's staff. The local planning authority's views are always sought at this stage. It is usual to invite them to attend full presentations.

  The views and advice of the Committee are made known by letter to the interested parties. Except where a scheme has been seen at an early stage on a confidential basis, the views will also be made available publicly, via the CABE website and in other ways.

  Further information about CABE can be found on its website at

Christopher Bowden

Development Control Policy Division

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