Two weeks ago the AJ broke the news that the government is considering revising PPG 7, to delete the clause that allows one-off large houses to be built in the countryside provided they are of outstanding quality (AJ 8.5.03). The response has been overwhelming. The Observer ran the story on 11 May (blaming the change of heart on a character in radio's The Archers), and the matter has been widely discussed among the architectural community as a whole.
Several readers have expressed the view that the clause has done little more than endorse a crop of Neo-Classical villas. It has, indeed, prompted its fair share of Classical designs - and very good they are too.
By definition, only the best get through. The AJ is frequently, and not unreasonably, accused of a bias towards Modernism - most recently in a letter to the editor from Robert Adam (AJ 15.5.03).But our strong support for this clause of PPG 7 is based on the fact that it insists on the best without presuming to be prescriptive about style. When applied with integrity, the clause does not allow mindless pastiche - but neither does it tolerate sub-standard Modernism.Or, indeed, buildings which are in themselves exemplary, but which fail to make the grade in respect of the associated landscape design.The criterion for approval is quality, and quality alone.
This week the AJ launches its PPG 7 campaign to keep the clause in place, with an open letter to Lord Rooker (published in full on pages 16 and 17). The initial signatories demonstrate the extent to which the issue crosses all boundaries within the profession - it is hugely gratifying to see, say, Robert Adam's and Will Alsop's names written side by side.And we want your names too. If you disagree with our campaign we would like to hear your point of view. If you agree, we would appreciate your support. If we can demonstrate the strength of opinion that exists within the profession we have a real chance of protecting this valuable clause before it is too late.