The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is to be wound up after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport decided to withdraw its £5 million annual funding as part of a Comprehensive Spending Review which has seen massive reductions across the public sector. Following this, CABE's other major funder, the Department of Communities and Local Government, announced that it will also withdraw its financial support, worth nearly £7 million last year.
The organisation in its present form is due to be wound up by the end of March 2011.
CABE's role has been to provide expert, independent design advice to public bodies including local authorities, to improve the quality of buildings in England, and to lead the public and professional debate on how to create great modern places.
According to the Architects Journal, the design watchdog might have been "sacrificed" to allow the Government to proceed with a number of major arts projects such as the Tate Britain and the British Museum Extension.
Opinion about the closure of CABE highlights the tension between the need to deliver high quality buildings in the public realm compared with the need to allow architects design freedom and flexibility. Some suggest that the decision to withdraw funding was short-sighted and its impact will be visible throughout the country for years to come, arguing that championing the delivery of high quality design was already a challenge with the advent of recession-busting schemes. The major concern is that there is not enough resources, in terms of skills and funding at local level to develop, guide and control all aspects of development.
In contrast, some architects and developers welcome the demise of CABE on the basis that it was overly critical, and the design of innovative new buildings, especially in the time of recession, will no longer be stifled.
There is already a lot of speculation that the commission could re-emerge in a different format.