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PPG 7 CAMPAIGN SUCCEEDS

The ODPM has made a major U-turn and given in to the AJ's PPG 7 'Save the Clause' campaign.

Planning minister Keith Hill conceded last week that the government would carry out a policy turnaround and retain a rewritten version of the clause, which allows for 'exceptional' one-off homes to be built in open countryside.

Hill has decided - contrary to the government's previous commitment to the abolition of 'Gummer's Law' - that the new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 7 will include the clause.

The minister said he was 'really very pleased' to have made the change, adding that the AJ should be 'very proud of its campaign'.

'We want to see the most talented British architects working on exceptional country houses rather than abroad, ' he told the AJ. 'We have in recent years fallen further behind our European and American partners in this area.

'I have been a passionate member of the National Trust for many years and I could not bear the idea that we were going to sever this line and tradition that runs throughout history.' And Hill was determined to answer critics who said the government was dictating the use of Modernist designs by including phrases such as 'innovative' and 'cutting-edge' in the new country house exception.

'I do not want this to be seen as a pro-Modernist document, ' he said. 'It is perfectly feasible that a scheme such as Robert Adam's Solar House, which is Classical in design, can be seen as innovative because of its amazing use of solar technology, ' Hill added.

The news of the government's volte-face has been widely praised throughout the architectural world. Norman Foster - who has lobbied Hill on behalf of the AJ - said he was extremely excited about the outcome. 'I think it is wonderful news that the government has recognised the role that good design can play in shaping the way that we build in the countryside, ' he said. 'This is a very progressive initiative and I am absolutely delighted that this provision has been included.

'It is good for both rural and national interests and should be welcomed by everyone, ' Foster added.

RIBA president George Ferguson agreed: 'This clause should be greatly welcomed and it is a brave and vital endorsement by the government of the value of excellence in design.

Keith Hill should be congratulated for his positive reaction to a well-argued case.' And design watchdog CABE - which has thrown its weight behind the AJ's campaign - also welcomed the government move.

'This gives the opportunity to build the very best and to enhance the environment as English country house architecture has done for centuries, ' said CABE Design Review boss, Peter Stewart.

'We look forward to seeing some exceptional proposals that can stand up to this exacting challenge, ' he added.

l For how the campaign was won, see pages 6-7 and Editorial, page 16.

Despite widespread acclaim for the government's change of heart, some Classicists have warned that the new document's wording reads as an order to planning committees to approve only Modern designs.

Here, Traditional Architecture Group chair Jan Maciag sets out the arguments? The Traditional Architecture Group welcomes the retention of the country house clause in the revised PPS 7; it is, however, deeply concerned about the wording of the new clause.

The predominant ideology or style in architecture and the arts is Modernism. This is rarely referred to by name, except in academic circles, but various terms are used in the design, architectural and planning professions that identify it by deliberate and positive reference to its core philosophy.

These terms are, among others, 'modern', 'contemporary', 'of our time', 'innovative' and 'cutting-edge'. Each adjective specifically excludes the alternative ideology: traditional.

The adjectives 'modern', 'contemporary' or 'of our time' are tautologous for a description of any design known to be of recent production. They can only have any meaning if they seek to differentiate one style or ideology from another.

As traditional design, by definition, draws its inspiration from the past, it is clear that these words are a means of distinguishing any design so described from traditional architecture or design.

Government support for Modernist architecture and disapproval of traditional architecture could not be more clearly expressed than in the new country house exception.

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