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In the country

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I woke up early on Saturday morning and turned on BBC News to hear an extraordinary argument between the AJ's Paul Finch and the president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Mike Haslam. The debate was about the new wave of country houses and whether it has merits.

The former argued that planning permission was always needed, based on excellent design, and was fine. But Haslam, showing all the attitudes of an old-style planner, declared it was 'inequitable' that millionaires should be able to build a house, when people with only £50,000 could not afford to do so. Finch suggested that if they had £50,000 they should think about designing a first-class extension. Haslam seemed to want to ban new buildings in favour of restoring old ones but, of course, these activities are not mutually exclusive.

Whatever next? One consolation was that the item featured Kathryn Findlay's competitionwinning design in Cheshire, proving that not every new country house has to be Classical.

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