Lipton quits architecture body in advance of auditor's report

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The Independent Online

Sir Stuart Lipton, chairman of the property developer Stanhope, has resigned as chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), the powerful quango that reviews planning applications for large commercial property schemes.

Sir Stuart Lipton, chairman of the property developer Stanhope, has resigned as chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), the powerful quango that reviews planning applications for large commercial property schemes.

Sir Stuart's resignation yesterday afternoon came less than 48 hours before the expected publication of an independent auditor's report into conflict of interest issues at Cabe. The findings were due out tomorrow but could now be brought forward to today.

Sir Stuart said he was resigning "to enable the organisation [Cabe] to respond freely to the report's recommendations". He said he intended to step down from the chairmanship of Cabe once a chief executive was announced. This was Richard Simmons, named on 7 June.

In March, The Independent revealed that the Government had instigated a review of procedures for handling conflicts of interest at Cabe, including whether the organisation was operating in accordance with the Nolan Committee's rules on standards in public life.

The investigation, undertaken by the accountants AHL, looked into Sir Stuart's commercial interests and those of Cabe's commissioners who are appointed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to oversee Cabe's work. It also looked at procedures for the management of conflicts of interest in respect of Cabe's design review process and practices adopted in conflicts of interest.

Last night, speculation was mounting on who might replace Sir Stuart as chairman. One possibility is Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate and chairman of Cabe's audit committee. However, a spokesman for Cabe said there would be a full search of internal and external candidates.

Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "The Government has every reason to be grateful to Sir Stuart Lipton."

It is thought that the auditor's report into Cabe is unlikely to find the organisation at fault over any specific issues.

But Cabe staff have admitted there was a problem of perception with Sir Stuart being a leading property developer and chairman of Cabe, which has design review opinions that carry weight with local authorities when they considerplanning applications.

Cabe records show eight out of 15 Cabe commissioners have relationships and connections of various kinds with Stanhope. It has considered 11 property schemes in which Stanhope has had an interest.

In one, Stratford City in the London borough of Newham, six Cabe commissioners had involvements of various kinds, four of them through Stanhope.

"I am glad to have been of service in chairing Cabe through its first five years and have received tremendous support from my colleagues and from Government," Sir Stuart said yesterday.

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