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RIBA slams William Hague for return to 'style police'

The RIBA has warned of the return of the 'style police' following the publication of new Tory policies which could force architects to use local styles and local materials on new housing.

The policy is one of many urban renewal proposals set out this week in the opposition's mini-manifesto. Others include the demolition of high-rise residential blocks, new rights for individuals to appeal against planning permissions, and a single minister to co-ordinate regeneration across government departments. Regional Development Agencies and regional assemblies will be abolished, the planning system will be made cheaper and national housebuilding targets will be scrapped.

But for architecture, William Hague's most controversial move is to give local planners jurisdiction over style and materials 'to prevent the spread of identikit homes'.

'The RIBA fought and fought to give people the right to choose the style they wanted, ' said the chairwoman of the RIBA's planning policy group Wendy Shillam.'To suggest that the style police are coming back is invidious.'

She gave a cautious welcome to the Tory plan 'to get rid of the worst of the tower blocks or large estates', and welcomed the pledge of 'radical new approaches to urban regeneration'. But she said that overall the approach shown was too superficial.

The manifesto also contained a thinly veiled attack on the government's slowness to implement the recommendations of the Urban Task Force and much of its policies on regeneration echo the task force recommendations.

Urban Task Force spokesman Ben Rich denied that a task force member had briefed the Tories but added: 'We are not jealous or partisan with our proposals and we'd be delighted if a government of a different complexion put our proposals into action.'

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