Plans for Design Centre move on

Plans for Britain’s proposed national design centre have taken another turn, with the announcement that the Design Council is stepping in to help steer the project towards its next phase of planning.

Though the move does not guarantee the creation of a national design hub, the Design Council says it is committed to working with the various partner organisations and financial backers, including the London Development Agency, to test the viability for the national centre for design and innovation outlined in the Cox Review.

The LDA has not yet signalled whether it will back any further investment, following its funding of two key studies by Whetstone and Grant Thornton, completed last year. The scheme for a centre has since come to be known as the International Design Exchange, or IDX.

Graham Hitchen, who has been managing the joint initiative, has this week been appointed as an external project advisor by the Design Council, following a tender. Hitchen was responsible for heading the first phase of feasibility studies for the centre, while working directly for the LDA as head of its Creative London unit. He was then made project director for the national centre, when he left the LDA last year.

The council is also setting up a sub-committee to co-ordinate its own involvement with the mooted centre. The sub-committee will be run by Helen Jacobs, who is to become director, and project leader Ellie Runcie, who will handle day-to-day running.

In a statement, the Design Council confirmed Hitchen’s appointment, saying,‘Graham Hitchen will work in conjunction with the council team until the feasibility studies are completed and further preparatory stages are well advanced.’

A spokeswoman for the LDA told Design Week that no investment in the second phase of the scheme for a centre has yet been earmarked by the LDA.

The absence of further LDA funding would be a blow to plans for a London-based design centre, particularly without Government investment.

• Plans for a ‘national centre for design and innovation’ were outlined in the Cox Review of 2005
• The London Development Agency agreed to take the proposal to the next stage of a full feasibility study for a London Creativity and Innovation Centre
• The Design Council has worked closely with the LDA team and its sub-consultants on the development and testing of the work undertaken to date
• Two of the key reports have now been filed, including one from Whetstone and one from Grant Thornton
• Further feasibility work is underway

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