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Farrell promises a big final year

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February 24 2006

Writing the report card on his first two years as City Design Champion for Edinburgh City Council, Sir Terry Farrell has given himself a ‘must do better’. The acclaimed urbanist has another year to fill on his remit as champion and, as he admitted to a gathering of Edinburgh’s design community, “perhaps we haven’t done as much as we should”. Explaining that the complexity of the city had surprised him, Farrell looked forward to the final year in the honorary post. “We hope to catch up over the next year, now we’ve got a better grasp of the situation,” he said.
Towards the end of the year, the council will examine the urban design support scheme that was established at the end of 2003. The council funded the scheme from the £24.2 million grant that it received from the Executive’s City Growth Fund, which lasts until the end of 2006. The position of Design Leader, occupied by Riccardo Marini, was funded from the £300,000 allocated to urban design support. In comparison the fund allocated £100,000 to the MTV Awards. Farrell’s post is unpaid.
Others involved in the council disagreed with Farrell. “I think Terry has dealt with himself quite harshly. It certainly wouldn’t be my choice of words,” said Marini. “When we started, Terry hadn’t done this before. I hadn’t done it and no other city in the UK had done it.” Trevor Davies, convenor of the planning committee, was also quick to defend Farrell’s record to date. “He’s extremely conscientious about this unpaid job. He thinks a lot and gives us a lot of his time for nothing. We started off doing something new and it has taken us a while but now we’ve got a wind in our sails,” he said.
When the fund finishes next year, Marini said, the council will have to decide whether to divert funds to the post or, more likely, reinvent the design support role. Marini is doubtful that continuing his own Design Leader role beyond 2006 is a good idea. “Is there a validity of doing what I’m doing? I think there may be a more efficient way of doing it. You‘ve got to be able to effect this big and varied organisation. There may be better places for these discussions if the initiative is to punch above its weight,” he said.
Marini identified the East End of Princes Street, the Waterfront and the new tram system as areas where the design initiative should be judged in the future. Davies insisted that the emphasis was not on Farrell to deliver tangible change but for the council to react to his ideas.

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