Leaders and mayors
As the leader or the elected mayor you set the direction. You have the authority to insist on design quality. Planning and urban design will help your council to deliver on its priorities and your long-term vision for your area.
What leaders and mayors can do
- Set the tone and make it clear to members, officers and outside bodies that the council will accept only good design – and will reject bad design.
- Read about how well-designed new projects can deliver economic, social and environmental benefits – and how badly designed schemes will prove a poor investment.
- Build strong partnerships with outside organisations and between political and professional leaders within the council to keep design quality at the centre of what you do – don’t let it get compartmentalised.
- Make sure that departments and directors are working together to deliver quality across the authority. Work to establish a culture where members and officers trust each other to deliver different aspects of the same agenda.
- Champion good design and use your position to promote design quality. Encourage design-led initiatives and design awards.
- Councillors can promote good design through their membership of partnership boards. Boards include local strategic partnerships (LSPs), which are made up of different public agencies, and the business and voluntary sectors. They exist to help local agencies work together effectively. LSPs spending money will have councillors on their boards, and council leaders will usually be key members of LSPs. Similar partnerships exist for specific sectors, such as local education, crime and disorder reduction and health and wellbeing.
How do you know if a proposal is any good? Use our seven principles of good urban design to help.
Resources for leaders and mayors
CABE guide for local authorities on delivering good design through core strategies. An accompanying film will help you plan for the future.
CABE website offering advice on how to tackle climate change through planning, designing and managing sustainable places.
CABE guide showing how investment in good design generates economic and social value.
CABE guide highlighting what happens when buildings and public spaces go wrong.
CABE web pages explaining how the built environment can contribute to a more equal, inclusive and cohesive society.
CABE guide for public organisations wanting to get the most from local buildings and spaces.
Section of CABE website devoted to investigating the benefits of good design and the costs of bad design.
Guidance for local authority leaders on making design quality part of everyday council practice.
Leaders and mayors in action
Gateshead: delivering transformation
As successive leaders of the council,
Cllr George Gill and Cllr Mick Henry established a strong working relationship between chief officers and a culture that encouraged new ideas and creativity. These were to become the driving ideas behind the reinvention of Gateshead. Gill and Henry championed individual projects like the Angel of the North, the Baltic Centre for contemporary art and Sage Gateshead international music centre.
The problem: The 1980s left the North East with a legacy of deindustrialisation and derelict industrial sites. Moving beyond that meant winning the support of external funders that Gateshead could be trusted to deliver projects.
The response: Years of investment in public art culminated in the Angel of the North and then a series of other projects like the Baltic, Sage Gateshead and Gateshead Millennium Bridge. As part of regeneration plans drawn up in the 1990s, Gateshead Council conceived projects to transform the Baltic Flour Mills building and the derelict riverside site that became the Sage. George Gill described the Baltic as ‘a physical and symbolic catalyst for the regeneration of the east side of Gateshead’ while Mick Henry hailed the opening of Sage Gateshead as ‘a major milestone in the area’s regeneration that will once again put Gateshead on a world stage’.
The result: The Baltic has been universally well received by the people who work there and who visit it. Its prestige is recognised locally, and it is enjoyed even by people who have no great enthusiasm for the contemporary art on display inside. Alongside Sage Gateshead, the Angel of the North and the Millennium Bridge, it has helped transform the image of Gateshead and delivered economic, educational and cultural benefits.
Nottingham: leading a design initiative
Cllr Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham City Council, championed the redevelopment of Old Market Square and other city sites, and gave the projects vital political support.
The problem: Refurbished after the Second World War to incorporate a processional route and a series of level changes, the square was being increasingly avoided by residents and visitors because they saw it as inaccessible and unwelcoming. However, the budget for the proposed scheme was too small.
The response: Jon Collins got directly involved and approved a larger budget. The council organised Square One, an international design competition that attracted proposals from more than 60 designers from across Europe and North America and was won by landscape architect Gustafson Porter. Old Market Square shows how strong leadership and a well-run procurement process can lead to an excellent development.
The result: Nottingham now has a prestigious space worthy of a 21st century regional centre. In addition, the high quality of entries to the design competition raised the council’s expectations and led to the Design Nottingham initiative and a determination to insist on good design across the city.