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Abolition of PPG 7 would damage society, not just the very rich

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It is not too difficult to see why the government might be having cold feet about PPG 7. The legislation, which allows for an isolated new house in the Green Belt to win planning consent provided it is 'truly outstanding'and 'significantly enhances' its surroundings, is simply too easy a target. It is evidence that this is a government which has left its ideals behind; which is happy to create special cases for the most privileged members of society while relegating the rank and file to high-density developments on brownfield sites.

But paternalistic egalitarianism is not generally compatible with outstanding design. The majority of the seminal buildings in architectural history were commissioned by a single wealthy patron. Many of the technological ideas that later filtered through to more socially acceptable areas (notably mass housing) were originally developed on one-off projects where the client could afford the heavy costs which innovation and creativity incur. Discouraging creativity at the highest end of the market is detrimental to the development of architecture as a whole.

True, few can afford the sort of 'truly outstanding' architecture required to satisfy the demands of PPG7.

But denying such people the opportunity to channel their wealth into contemporary architecture does not make them any less privileged, it simply encourages them to spend their money elsewhere. Either they move away from the countryside altogether, thus depriving it of muchneeded investment, or they buy something that is there already. The government has no problem with the very wealthy living the life of luxury in our historic country houses, it just doesn't like the idea of them commissioning something new. Given its willingness to commission the anonymous mediocrity, which is all too often the result of PFI, it is perhaps not surprising that it is prepared to axe the one piece of legislation that specifically encourages, even insists on, the procurement of architecture which is of the highest-possible quality, and is, by definition, unique.

It would be interesting to know where discussions about this particular point of policy have taken place.

Dorneywood? Chequers?

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