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

Memorandum by the Landscape Institute (LI) (CAB 25)

  1.  The Landscape Institute (LI) is the Chartered Institute in the UK for Landscape Architects, incorporating designers, managers and scientists, concerned with enhancing and conserving the environment. The LI promotes the highest standards in the practice of landscape planning, design, management and research, representing members in private practice, at all levels of government and government agencies, in academic institutions and commercial organisations. In addition, the Landscape Institute is one of the strategic partners of CABE Space and is represented on its steering committee.

  2.  Since its creation in 1999, CABE has made a significant difference to the way which design is considered by policy makers in government and Whitehall. Together with key government ministers, CABE has sought to address the benefits that a well designed environment with better buildings can bring to the quality of everyday life. In particular we support the wider view taken by CABE in addressing aspects of urban design and tackling the more modest environments rather than simply concentrating high profile buildings. The evidence-based approach followed by CABE has helped to dispel the view that good design is the exclusive preserve of the cultural elite and instead has promoted the significance of good design on most people lives. The surveys, campaigns and publications have been particularly effective in breaking out of the elitist mould to communicate with Councillors and the public at large. For example, the finding that 85% of people believe that their environment effects their quality of life is an important lever in promoting good design as part of what people are entitled to, rather than an added extra for the few.

  3.  CABE has assisted the design professions by equipping them with facts in an accessible form that support the arguments for good design. This is an important tool as it carries the weight of a national body backed by government in the continuing debate with organisations or individuals who take the view that design is an optional add-on.

  4.  CABE has championed good design and forced architects and other designers to think more thoroughly about the context of their work beyond the demands of their immediate client. The design review panel has a key role in this area and should represent a broad cross section of respected experts in the field. The LI welcomes the proposal to advertise for appointments to the panel and would like to see more non-architects from within the construction design professions taking a role. The LI supports the moves by CABE to develop its regional activities either in its own right or in partnership with other organisations. The lack of design skills in local authorities is a fundamental problem when dealing with applications for schemes which may significantly effect the quality of life in regional towns and cities for many decades. In this regard the regional panels such as the SEEDA design panel should be promoted to work in collaboration with CABE to enable closer geographical connection and appreciation of specific context.

  5.  The creation of CABE Space in 2003 is part of a sea change in the way government approaches the public realm of our towns and cities and in particular their green spaces. The LI had campaigned for over ten years for the formation of an agency to promote and safeguard urban parks and is now working with CABE Space as a strategic partner to develop their work and assist local authorities in regaining the pride once held in parks and other public spaces. We welcome the appointment of a landscape architect and an open space expert as CABE commissioners to guide the development of CABE space in particular but to broaden the view of CABE in general. The LI supports the work being undertaken by CABE Space and believes that the Chairman, the Director and all staff have made a significant impact in a short period to revive and enthuse a sector that has been without an authoritative central voice for a very long time.

  6.  We will continue to support the organisation in its work as a champion of urban open space promoting the case for quality of the public realm to develop sustainable communities. We trust our comments are of interest.

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