By Rowan Moore
Inspired by Kentish oast houses and the Arts and Crafts movement, this confident, eco-smart family home is a model for grand living
Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework, formerly Planning Policy Statement 7, formerly Planning Policy Guidance 7, also known as Gummer’s Law or the Toffs’ Charter – conceived 20 years ago, amid the dying embers of the John Major government, by the environment secretary John Gummer – is a weird, quasi-feudal kink in the British planning system. It says that you can build a big, isolated house in the countryside, contrary to the usual ban on such things, if you can prove that it is (whatever this may mean) “of outstanding architectural quality”.
Although it doesn’t specifically exclude beautiful bungalows or lovely little cottages, the risks and costs of proving your case (perhaps £100,000 in professional and legal fees) mean that only rich people can play this game, and it’s only worth doing if you end up with a big house. Which was Gummer’s intention, as the policy’s original wording states: “This means that each generation would have the opportunity to add to the tradition of the Country House which has done so much to enhance the English countryside.”