November 26, 2003

Alan Howarth, Labour’s former Architecture Minister, has joined in the campaign to save the clause in PPG7 known as Gummer’s Law, after it was introduced by John Gummer MP, which allows for the building of new country houses on greenfield sites under special circumstances.

The MP has told colleagues that he intends to table an ‘extended’ EDM (early day motion) in the House of Commons, when the new session opens following the Queen’s Speech, in support of PPG7, which is the specific clause allowing for building ‘truly outstanding’ new country houses where the quality of the architecture and landscape design meet the standards required.

The changes to planning laws that Mr Howarth objects to feature in a consultation document PPS7 – Sustained Development in Rural Areas – which outline new planning guidance intended to allow for more affordable housing to be built in rural areas. The consultation suggests that the PPG7 paragraph would be removed from any new legislation on planning.

Submissions have been invited by December 12, and, following this, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will draft legislation, which will need to be included in the Queen’s Speech before it comes before the House.

This leaves time for protest, and an EDM is a way of calling to attention an issue which an MP feels need to be changed. An EDM begins ‘This House believes that?’ and the MP who tables it then invites other Members to sign their agreement on it.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architect’s Journal believe the so-called country house clause should be maintained.

Last summer, John Gummer who introduced the guidance exemption as Environment Minister in 1997, stated: ‘Country houses are unique: we’ve lost hundreds since 1945 and this modest clause has permitted less than 20 new houses to be built. These are the classics of tomorrow and I hope that no one seriously believes that country houses are a thing of the past.’