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'Misleading' letter confuses country house issue

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The government has insisted it remains open to proposals for new country houses, despite the revisions to its countryside guidance, PPS 7, which was published last week.

ODPM minister Yvette Cooper - in a letter to Robert Adam Architects - has said that planning applications for country houses will still be welcome.

Adam, however, has condemned the letter, describing it has 'highly misleading' and 'only making matters worse'.

Planning minister Keith Hill triggered widespread dismay last week when he unveiled the consultation document PPS 7, the proposed replacement to PPG 7, which, as predicted by the AJ, failed to retain the country house clause.

But Cooper's letter, dated last Tuesday, said the government would still welcome planning applications for new country houses, but was determined they should only be judged in the same way as any other proposal.

'If, as a result of the consultation, the policy exception [for high quality country houses] is removed, this would simply mean that any planning application for such a house would have to be considered on the same terms as any other house in the countryside.

'It would be up to the applicant to provide special justification for the proposal, ' the letter continues. 'A high-quality design and an improvement to the local environment could still be put forward in its support.'

However, Adam said that the comments 'will be of no help at all' to architects. 'Whatever the government says, the fact is that if they do drop the PPG 7 clause, they are basically instigating an outright ban.

'Planning authorities will take the new PPS 7 as a statement of policy and assume the government is saying that no country houses should be built anywhere, ' he said, 'and they will throw them out accordingly.

'They sent the letter as a way of mollifying the campaigners, but it ought to do nothing of the sort, ' Adam added.

An ODPM spokesman dismissed Adam's comments, maintaining that the government 'has no intention of instigating a complete ban'.

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