In 1984, when Faith in the City set out the thenradical agenda to revitalise city centres through planning control, John Gummer and his Tory colleagues proved that the most pioneering policies can come from the most unlikely sources.
With his proposal to absolve post-1945 housing estates from conventional development control (see page 11), Gummer has done it again. You can take issue with his implication that post-war housing is intrinsically less precious than pre-war housing stock. Or detect a distasteful snobbery in the advocation of one rule for housing estate residents, and one for everybody else. But you have to admire Gummer's guts.
Post Community Architecture, we understand the importance of engendering ownership, and have learned that it is rather more complex than simply transferring public housing stock into private hands. And we use the knowledge to justify all manner of spurious initiatives, from painting different housing blocks in different colours in a quest to impose 'identity', to conducting tortuous consultation exercises in order to give residents the illusion of power.
Gummer's suggestion that homeowners should be encouraged to develop their properties in whatever manner they see -t represents the -rst real challenge to the of-cial monopoly on approving development and sanctioning style.
At the AJ's Affordable Housing Conference last week, English Partnerships' Trevor Beattie, the man charged with delivering the £60K house, declared: 'We don't prescribe architectural style, but I pride myself on being most prejudiced about what I don't like. I personally do not like porch extensions, mock columns stuck on the front of the house, and any form of concrete garden ornament.' The government is wholly in tune with the middle-class impulse to curb aesthetic excess. But the opposition may be ready to sacri-ce some of its prescriptive powers, and to yield to the vagaries of popular taste.