Letter: Ministers back good buildings

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Ministers back good buildings

Sir: I do think Jonathan Glancey, in his article "Parliamentary interest in building? Never!" (7 March) is unfair in ignoring the Government's efforts to improve standards of architecture, particularly in the public sector.

His reference to the recent debate in the House of Commons includes not a single word of the Government's contribution. Iain Sproat, replying for the Government, affirmed our commitment to raising architectural standards. He recognised successes and failures, identified problems and made suggestions for addressing them.

Virginia Bottomley and I have had a number of discussions with leading architects, as well as with our colleagues in government, to consider how we can improve the quality of our buildings. John Gummer's enthusiasm has been evident in his initiative "Quality in Town and Country".

The Department of National Heritage/Department of the Environment advice on promoting and organising architectural competitions has been warmly welcomed. Competitions have become more popular and are taking on new importance to meet the great requirement for new buildings being driven by the National Lottery.

A number of options for a National Centre for Architecture and what role it might play are examined in a report we commissioned and are circulating.

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, a Private Finance Initiative project supported by this department, has received accolades. Later this year we shall publish guidance to ensure that PFI takes good architecture into account.

As Jonathan Glancey says, architecture frames most of our lives for much of the time. Neither public nor private developers always get it right. But to ignore the efforts we are making to encourage good architecture does no service to the cause of bettering architecture and design in Britain, which we are both anxious to promote.


Under-Secretary of State

Department of National Heritage

London SW1