What CABE has achieved

Positive change to thousands of design proposals, design advice that sets standards, unforgettable lessons and better schools, the creation of better public spaces and inspiring public campaigns.

Positive change to thousands of design proposals

Since 1999, CABE has design reviewed over 3,000 of the most significant development proposals to come forward during something of a period of architectural renaissance in England. Local authorities and others have had the courage to back bold commissions that include the Manchester Civil Justice Centre, the Barbara Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, the Collection in Lincoln, the Chipping Norton Sports Centre and the remodelling of St Martin in the Fields, London. In each case they have done this with independent advice from CABE.

Eighty five per cent of local authorities have chosen to use CABE’s design review service, valuing in particular the specialist expertise, and 70 per cent then took planning decisions in accordance with that advice. Eighty one per cent of the people that have used design review said that they find it useful.

Design review has also represented excellent value. Each review costs £2,430 on average – a tiny fraction of the overall construction costs on a project.

Early design and planning advice to clients

CABE’s enabling work has focused on creating better spaces, buildings and places across England. Its methods have evolved since 2000 and its influence and achievements show the value of practical, hands-on support, complemented by best practice guidance, examples and training.

The enabling programme was initially devised to influence projects at the early stages, aiming to improve the quality of public buildings and deliver better urban design and housing design.  It focused on clients rather than design teams – helping them to make the decisions that would ensure a high quality end-product.  

Over time, these activities expanded to include funding for architecture centres, local pilot programmes, support for local authorities in preparing statutory local plans and major training events like the CABE urban design summer school.  We have, in Building for Life, created a national standard for well-designed homes which is now accepted across the public and private sectors and used to assess the quality of housing before and after a development is built. By 2008, the enabling programme have been replaced by a wide-ranging approach to design and planning advice.

The enabling programme achieved a great deal.  It started in 2000 with one member of staff, ten enablers and a tiny budget. By the end of 2010, it had 38 internal staff and had supported 900 projects and 380 clients.

Unforgettable lessons and better schools

In just six years more than 325,000 young people took part directly in CABE education programmes. These championed the idea of teaching and learning through the built enviornment.

They included Engaging Places, run with English Heritage, which brought together organisations from across the sector to advocate and to share ideas. Engaging Places made a huge range of practical resources available to teachers through a single website; and it ran projects pioneering new ways for young people to learn using the buildings and spaces around them, showing just how cheap and versatile built environment education really is.

In 2008/09 alone, teachers and educationalists used more than 20,000 CABE resources, with a satisfaction rating of 90 per cent.

Since 2002, CABE has helped to improve the design of 359 schools and given practical advice to 100 local authorities investing public money in the school estate. The cost to the taxpayer of CABE’s advice and support to the Building Schools for the Future programme was just 70p for every £1000 spent in construction costs.

The creation of better public spaces

Ninety per cent of urban residents link the quality of local green spaces with their quality of life. But responsibility for green space is spread across a range of professions,  organisations and sectors. CABE Space was created in 2003 as a response to this lack of a single voice. The previous year, the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce had highlighted the need for local authorities to take a strategic approach to planning and investing in public space. Since then CABE Space has helped 180 councils prepare green space strategies. In 2000 the number of councils preparing strategies was just 53 per cent. With our support, this increased to 92 per cent.

CABE Space has worked in 90 per cent of the most deprived areas of England. Three of the poorest boroughs in London, for example, border the new Olympic park. CABE worked on this project for over three years to help ensure that Britain’s largest new urban park for 150 years will be of the highest quality.

But parks and green spaces, however well designed, cannot function effectively without the right staff with appropriate skills. So we have trained more than 350 green space leaders in local authorities and created 60 new apprenticeships in parks. We led the Skills to Grow strategy, ensuring joined-up support across the sector and encouraging talented people to join it.

We have worked hard to help local people’s opinions to be heard when it comes to the future of green space. We pioneered a consultation tool called Spaceshaper and in 2009, created a bespoke version of the tool for young people.

Finally, we managed a £45 million government grant programme – Sea Change – to invest in the cultural regeneration of seaside towns. In Jaywick, we helped put community consultation at the heart of a feasibility project for the town’s open spaces. And in Margate, we investigated new uses for the Dreamland Cinema as a heritage amusement park.

Inspiring public campaigns

Through a mix of campaigns, research and media work, CABE has sought to inform and motivate public demand for good design.

In 2008, we organised a pioneering climate change festival. This was a completely new way to have a conversation with the public about how they live their lives in cities, and what needs to be different in the future. We wanted people to start thinking about how their cities could be great places to live in again. 181 activities took place over nine days. Over 300,000 people were involved. A series of dramatic installations, from a full sized pylon to oversized benches, encouraged them to pause and look and think. Over half the people who attended events said they had been motivated to do something about climate change. And the festival succeeded in providing a platform for political leadership: Birmingham, the host city council, announced its intention to cut carbon emissions at twice the rate set by national government.

Other CABE campaigns have focused on public space. The 2002 Streets of Shame campaign, run with BBC Radio 4, invited the public to nominate their most loathed and loved streets (Streatham High Street and Newcastle Grey Street). Our 2006 Parkforce campaign urged councils to “bring back the parkie” into local green spaces, and 2009’s Grey to Green called for a shift in funding and skills from investing in grey infrastructure, and into multi-functional networks of green spaces instead. Our thought-provoking photo competition on ‘areas of outstanding urban beauty’ prompted 800 entries.

CABE’s publishing activity, in both print and online, has had a real impact. Seventy five per cent of readers have told us that they find our publications useful in their day-to-day  work. Our reports have ranged from expert advice for clients on masterplanning, research on supermarket-led development, new thinking on the meaning of beauty and a groundbreaking guide to what makes design inclusive. Online, we had nearly 850,000 unique visits to our website in 2010 alone, reading our latest design reviews and downloading advice from our new online client guides.