Targeting Urban Wasteland

Derelict and neglected urban land is under attack.
CABE Space is the government vehicle to bring improvement to our communities.


The drive for more effective use of public space in the UK changed gear earlier this year. CABE Space, launched in May, aims to champion better use of the country's urban parks and public spaces. To support this it is pushing for acceleration in the process of strategy development for green spaces across the UK.

A recent off-shoot of CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, CABE Space, is headed up by director Julia Thrift. CABE is a non-departmental public body, funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

CABE Space has already managed to boost awareness for its work to find better use for 70,000 hectares of derelict land across Britain through its well-publicised "Worst Wasted Spaces" campaign.

Working With Local Authorities

According to CABE Space, over half of England's local authorities do not have a "green space strategy", so a primary focus will be working with local authorities and other bodies responsible for public spaces to help close this gap. A principal activity will be running an enabling service to provide expert guidance to local authorities in developing a more strategic approach to delivering good quality public space.

CABE Space has admitted that initial support will be focused on those authorities that are keen to start. Those that have not made the effective use of public spaces a priority in their overall planning will have to wait. Of the first 30 local authorities to be given support through the strategic enabling service, the only authority in Greater London is Greenwich.

In the longer term CABE Space plans to provide further support. Best practice will be rewarded through an expansion of the current Green Flag and Green Pennant Award Schemes. There will be support for research aimed at enabling clearer policy decisions and funding for awareness campaigns to raise the profile of urban space issues. In addition, continued funding for on-going maintenance of urban green spaces will be a priority.


Julia Thrift

CABE Space director Julia Thrift

Strategic Partners

CABE Space is guided by a panel of strategic partners made up of the other key organisations in the field. This includes GreenSpace, Groundwork, ID&EA, and the Landscape Institute, which shares many common aims and activities with CABE Space. CABE Space is very keen to support community and voluntary organisations that aim to improve or conserve local parks and green space. Although CABE Space has not yet met with the AGT, future work, particularly its latest campaign to encourage communities to become involved in the improvement and transformation of neglected spaces, will be very relevant to the AGT.

CABE Space is not a grant-making organisation so it will not become a channel for funding. Instead, it aims to act as a national champion driving research into the problems facing parks, and the best way to drive forward an urban green space renaissance. Research programmes will include looking at the way parks are designed and managed in other European countries and the US. As a result CABE Space hopes to be able to set national standards and offer guidelines for best practice in areas ranging from writing a green space management plan to involving young people in the design and management of green space.

Through its work, CABE Space aims to enable the effective use of  funds allocated to tackle the state of parks and public spaces across England by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. A fund of £89 million has been launched to enable the implementation of 'Radical ideas to transform parks and public spaces' and will be split between 27 pilot programmes.

Appointments at CABE

In May 2003 DCMS Minister Tessa Blackstone announced the appointments of Alan Barber and Jason Prior to CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment).  Barber is a freelance consultant, specialising in urban green parks strategies.  His portfolio on the Commission is Urban Parks and Public Spaces.  Prior is a landscape architect, urban designer and environmental planner.  His portfolio is Landscape Architecture.

In August 2003, Matt Bell was appointed as CABE's first Director of Policy and Communications.  This move signals a major shift in the organization's strategy.  CABE now plans to lead a long-term campaign to change public expectations of buildings and urban space in England, as well as influencing and enabling practitioners to use good design.

"We intend to focus on the consumers - not just the providers - of our our streets, parks and buildings" says Bell.