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Prescott denies phasing out new country houses by the back door

The government has denied that the country house clause in PPG 7 is already being phased out ahead of public consultation.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has refuted suggestions that its planning inspectors are upholding refusals for PPG 7 houses in anticipation of the proposed change in the law.

Only five per cent of planning appeals into PPG 7 houses are approved, compared with an average of 30 per cent of appeals approved across the board.

And observers of the clause have argued that the figures show inspectors are using expected future guidelines rather than those that currently apply.

The government is in the process of revising its countryside guidance, PPG 7, and is set to remove paragraph 3.12 that allows for construction of an isolated house in the countryside if it is of exceptional design quality. The draft document, for public consultation, will be published in the summer with a final version expected by the autumn.

However, the ODPM claimed that the disparity in the appeals figures was understandable, since the 30 per cent average covered all building types.

'When you consider that country house building is an incredibly small and specific type of development, it is not that surprising to find the figures are different from the overall average.'

'Planning inspectors work to ensure the correct decision is reached, using all the evidence available to them, ' he said And he added that planning minister Lord Rooker would consider all responses received to the draft revision PPS 7.

'We are always open to comment. We are not just doing consultation for the sake of it.'

Support continues to mount for the AJ's campaign to save the country house clause. See page 10 for the names of those who have signed up so far and visit www. ajplus. co. uk to view the letter, which was published in full in last week's AJ, and to add your support.

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