Memorandum by Professor John Punter, Cardiff
University: Commissioner of the Design Commission for Wales (CAB
1.1 I write these comments in two capacities.
First as a Design Commissioner, and the Chair of the Design Review
Panel, of the Design Commission for Wales. Second, as a Professor
of Urban Design at Cardiff University, and the author of numerous
papers and books on international planning and design practice
and policy development over the last 20 years. As regards the
Committee's terms of reference I refer to two issues, the work
of the Design Review Panel (2a) and its relationship with other
2. DESIGN REVIEW
2.1 We in the design Commission for Wales
have used CABE's Design Review publications to provide the structure
of our design review process. While we have adapted these methods
to fit our much smaller budget and staff complement, we have found
CABE's lucid guidance and objective criteria invaluable both in
establishing our practices and training our panellists. We have
benefited from attending a CABE Design Review in July 2004, and
from the contributions made by two CABE staff to a Panel training
day earlier in the year. As a result of the former we have sharpened
our reporting mechanisms and report writing. CABE's monitoring
reports on design review (Design Reviewed), highlighting
the major recurrent issues, are especially useful to the Panel
in giving us a comparative base and preparing us for major challenges
in the future. CABE also provide all their publications free to
the Commission and the Design Review Panel and this is invaluable
to training and professional development.
2.2 Following CABE's experience, and with
advice from the Design Review team, we have written new guidance
on conflicts of interest and the Code of Conduct for Panellists.
2.3 Overall, CABE has given us a flying
start with the launch of Design Review and allowed us to rapidly
establish credibility and a team of 19 Panellists working across
the Principality. There is strong competition across the range
of design professionals for places on the Panel. CABE have been
supportive, and very generous with their expertise and resources.
3. ACADEMIC AND
3.1 Those of us who have campaigned for
a more design conscious planning system over the last 20 years
regard CABE as an indispensable campaigning, research and policy/guidance
agency. Its output of policy and research papers has been prodigious,
and the accessibility of this work has been a boon to professional
planners and designers, to students and their teachers, and to
interested lay persons. Papers like The Value of Urban Design,
Creating Successful Masterplans, The Value of Housing Design and
Layout, Building in Context are now standard works that are
both definitive in their arguments and bang up to date. Particular
mention should be made of the work they have done to survey the
skills available to local planning authorities, and their monitoring
reports on practice like Protecting Design Quality in Planning.
Then there are projects like Building for Life which
highlight exemplar housing schemes across the country, and take
forward the drive for more sustainable development and higher
standards of living environments for all sections of the community.
The website for this project is a great favourite of researchers
and planning students, and has allowed us to show councillors
what is possible with a determined approach to planning and design.
CABE Space is another initiative of fundamental importance
to the quality of our towns and cities.
3.2 On five occasions in the last year (in
Vancouver, Sydney, Kuching, Beijing and Shanghai) I was able to
refer senior planners, designers and academics to the CABE website
as a window on best practice urban design in England. They were
all stunned at its breadth, depth and accessibility. It was a
supreme pleasure, after having to apologise for British urban
design practices for so long, to be able to show them that at
last we had a resource and an agency capable of promoting best
practice nationally and internationally. CABE is a world beater.
There is no other equivalent national resource anywhere in the
world. Its positive impact upon the education, training and continuous
professional development of the nation's urban designers and design
oriented planners has been incalculable, improving both their
morale and their expertise.
4.1 CABE has been an unqualified success
in taking forward the cause of better architecture and urban design
on all fronts. It is indispensable to the drive for more sustainable
communities and a higher quality built environment in Britain.
In five years it has transformed the campaigns for better building
and development from a marginal issue into a key plank of government
policy. CABE is a great English success story, and those of us
with similar aspirations to CABE in Wales regard it with awe,
and with a deep gratitude that we can fully share in its expertise
and advances. We want it to continue its excellent work across
all of its programmes, but particularly in design skills, design
advice, design review, client support and procurement, Building
for Life, CABESpace and design education.
Professor John Punter
School of City and Regional Planning
Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Chair, Design Review, Design Commission for Wales,
Caspian Point, Cardiff Bay, CF10 4DQ