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Country house ban confusion continues

Your report on the real effect of the proposed removal of the country house exception from PPG 7 (now PPS 7) and Yvette Cooper's letter (AJ 25.9.03) does not quite get to the critical point.

The government has stated that: 'We believe the exception which supports the building of large country houses in the open countryside is inconsistent with our desire to protect the countryside and promote sustainable communities.' Local authorities and planning inspectors would take this to mean that large country houses are against government policy. This is much worse than the situation before John Gummer introduced this exception when, as rightly stated by Cooper, exceptions could have been justified by 'highquality design and improvement to the local environment'.

Cooper's statement accords with the CPRE consultation on the review of PPG 7. The RIBA was not consulted. We know from the AJ debate on this issue at the RIBA that the CPRE is resolutely opposed to the country house exception. If the government has, indeed, 'no intention of instigating a complete ban', then either it doesn't know the reality of its own planning system or the CPRE has stolen a march on it - or both.

In practice, this change of policy would be tantamount to an outright ban. If this were not the government's intention, it would need to introduce a clear statement to this effect and the new conditions under which such a consent might be granted. This was, of course, exactly what Gummer did in 1997.

Robert Adam, Winchester

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