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Hill relieves Classicists' country house horror

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The Traditional Architecture Group (TAG) has claimed victory in its campaign to ensure that the new country house clause will allow Classical architects to win planning permission for large new homes in the country.

The group - which reacted with horror in August to the wording of the new PPS 7 - has obtained assurances in a letter from planning minister Keith Hill that the clause remains open to Classical and vernacular designs.

Hill's letter comes in the aftermath of the AJ's campaign victory to save the PPG 7 country house clause. The clause's replacement was widely backed by the architectural community except Classicists, who warned of its wording bias towards Modernism.

However, Hill's letter has allayed these concerns.

TAG, which is affiliated to the RIBA and has a long-standing relationship with Robert Adam, wrote to the ODPM in August demanding to be told 'unambiguously' whether paragraph 11 of PPS 7 is 'intended to exclude traditional architecture'.

The ODPM has now replied, saying that 'it is not the government's intention to impose or dictate a particular style preference through the policy set out in PPS 7'. Hill's reply also makes it clear that 'decision-makers will need to be guided by the policy as set out in paragraph 11', regardless of style.

TAG's chair, Jan Maciag, said she was quite certain that, within its own discipline, contemporary traditional architecture could easily be as 'innovative' and 'ground-breaking' as any other kind of architecture.

Maciag claimed that the letter means local authorities and planning inspectors will no longer be able to 'exclude a proposal for an isolated new house' in the country simply because it is traditional. Traditional designs, she said, would be judged only on whether they were 'truly outstanding and ground-breaking' examples of their own genre, their setting and showed 'sensitivity to the defining characteristics of the local area'.

'This is welcome news because it shifts the criteria on to matters of quality, ' Maciag added. 'It would be complete folly for any democratic government to impose an official style of architecture in a 'four legs good, two legs bad' manner.'

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