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Chelmsford council leaves PPG 7 'in the hands of the Classicists'

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Chelmsford Borough Council has flown in the face of CABE and its planners by turning down James Gorst Architects' designs for a new modern country house in the Green Belt.

The council's planning committee unanimously rejected the £2 million Ropers Farm scheme (AJ 31.10.02), claiming its design fails to reach the 'high standards' necessary to win the go ahead through PPG 7.

Reaching its decision, the committee rejected CABE's advice, which in a letter to borough planners said 'it was very happy to support the proposal', highlighting for praise the 'properly considered strategy towards ecology'.

And the council's planner, Andy Bestwick, agreed in his report, saying the scheme's design rationale provided 'objective confirmation of outstanding architecture'.

PPG 7 allows for an isolated new house in the Green Belt to win planning if 'it is truly outstanding in terms of its architecture and landscape design, and would significantly enhance its immediate settings and wider surroundings'.

As a result, the practice's principal James Gorst - winner of a RIBA award for The Lodge, Whithurst Park Sussex - said he was 'massively disappointed' to have been turned down.

And he insisted that the committee would have rejected any application unless it looked like it 'a house built for Noddy', adding that the decision left PPG 7 'in the hands of the Classicists'.

However Gorst said that he and his client, a local farmer, were determined to appeal against the decision because they believe they have matched PPG 7's prerequisites.

CABE said it was 'surprised and disappointed' that the project was turned down, insisting that it was 'a high quality scheme that deserved to be built'.

But a planning committee insider said that all the members were 'deeply unimpressed' with the scheme, saying most agreed with one parish councillor who described it as a 'carbuncle'.

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